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Protesters step up pressure in battle to save balustrade.

Byline: Tony Henderson Environment Editor tony.henderson@ncjmedia

PROTESTERS manned the balustrades yesterday as they continued their campaign to save a town's seafront feature.

In a matter of days more than 1,700 people have signed an online petition against plans by North Tyneside Council to demolish the sculpted balustrades along the central promenade in Whitley Bay.

The Save Our Balustrades (SOB) movement is appealing to North Tyneside Mayor Norma Redfearn to save the features. Yesterday campaigners gathered at the balustrades with a banner urging drivers to toot in support as they collected more signatures for the petition.

They say that the balustrades, thought to date from the 1920s-30s, embody memories of Whitley Bay and its seaside past for many people.

The campaigners say that council plans to replace the balustrades with metal railings will detract from the character of the seafront and point to rusting stretches nearby. The council plans to remove the balustrades as part of its scheme to demolish the lower central promenade - which itself attracted protests- to improve sea defences. Campaigner Brenda Sokell, who counted the 453 balustrades, said: "I was born in Whitley Bay and the balustrades are part of the town and are part of our heritage. They are much more attractive than metal railings.

"It is ridiculous to replace a feature which is historic and has been here since the 1920s."

Another protestor, Jacqueline Quinn, who lives in the town. said: "Demolishing the balustrades would be another blow for Whitley Bay, which already looks sad and neglected compared with its neighbours Blyth, Cullercoats and Tynemouth. "The balustrades have a historic look which makes this part of the promenade look different."

Caz Lamb, one of the campaign leaders, said: "The response since we began has been absolutely amazing. We have been contacted by people from the south of England, the United States, Australia and Japan who all remember the balustrades. "They are lovely to look at and people have memories of them from childhood. If they are replaced by metal railings then our seafront will look bland and the same as anywhere else.

"We have turned out to allow people to sign the petition who may not be able to do so online and we hope that the Mayor and the council will not ignore the scale of the response."

Other people took to social media to register their views.

Kate Bromich-Alexandra said: "The balustrades are an integral part of Whitley Bay's charm. Beautiful character like this needs to be preserved, not replaced with metal railings that are never properly maintained."

Aisha Coe said: "It is a beautiful part of my mum's history growing up as a child in the area."

A spokesperson for North Tyneside Council said: "As an authority we have had many more people encouraging us to get on with the delivery of the PS36m master plan for Whitley Bay that will secure the long-term future of Whitley Bay and its seafront through a co-ordinated regeneration plan for the sea front.

"The central lower promenade is a key part of that as it is an essential part of the sea defences at Whitley Bay, and provides a robust sea defence that will protect the main seafront road, a strategic Northumbrian Water sewer, as well as nearby homes and businesses.

"This will secure our seafront for at least 120 years and complements wider regeneration plans of importance to the borough and the North East. "The balustrade has to be removed as it sits on the roof section of the promenade which has to be demolished and re-built. "These are standard reinforced concrete units which have no monetary or heritage value and are in a poor state of repair. They cannot be practically re-used at this location."


Seven-year-old Dylan Robinson joins the protest at Whitley Bay yesterday LEWIS ARNOLD
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jul 6, 2015
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