It’s time to say a big thank you to all those who signed our petition, wrote letters of objection, and generally supported our campaign to stop plans for a cycle hub and leisure outlet which would have ruined the character of the historic Spanish Battery. The developer has withdrawn the planning application much to the relief of all those who have fought to protect and preserve this wonderful spot. The Spanish Battery proudly takes its place alongside the Castle, Priory, Collingwood Monument, and Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade Watch House, as one of the jewels in the crown of the Tynemouth heritage trail. In our view, commercial development in such a location should not even be contemplated.
It’s a saga which began when the Northern Property Group, a consortium of three men, including one who owns a property at the Spanish Battery, unveiled their plans for the venture, including a large cafe/restaurant, a range of facilities for cyclists, a shop, outdoor terrace and rooftop garden, on land next to the Watch House and the Old Coastguard Cottages. From the start people living nearby made it clear they were strongly opposed to commercial development. Our objections were simple: that the scheme would lead to traffic problems, noise and disruption, damage the setting of historic buildings, and harm wildlife. We were concerned about the massive upheaval during construction A grassy embankment, which is public open space owned by North Tyneside Council, would need to be excavated and lorries carrying earth and concrete would trundle backwards and forwards along local roads for months.
Before the planning application was submitted we were told alcohol would be served at the leisure outlet, though that was never confirmed even though we pressed the developers to give further details of their plans. Why, we wondered, was another food and drink outlet even needed when there are more than 30 pubs, restaurants and cafes just a few minutes walk away in Tynemouth Front Street where cyclists can enjoy a meal and a drink? Why was it necessary to insert a glass and concrete bunker in a historic area dating back nearly 500 years to the days of Henry Vlll when the Spanish Battery was constructed to defend the coastline against invasion by the French and Scots?
The objections soon gained momentum with support not just from North Tyneside residents, but visitors from the wider area who know and love the Spanish Battery and are attracted by its unspoiled beauty and tranquility. People made their feelings known when they gathered at the site to demonstrate against the scheme and by the time objections closed 3,163 had signed a protest petition.
It was a pivotal moment when leading Labour figures Alan Campbell, MP for Tynemouth, and ward councillors Sarah Day and Frances Weetman, decided to support the campaign. We also received the backing of North Tyneside Conservative leader, Coun Judith Wallace, and the Green Party’s Julia Erskine.
Hundreds of people wrote letters of objection and a series of respected conservation groups threw their weight behind the campaign, including the Tynemouth Village Conservation Area Management Strategy planning committee, the Northumberland & Newcastle Society, the Open Spaces Society, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and Historic England. Council environmental health and ecology officers voiced concern along with the Tyne & Wear archaeology officer. Separate from our campaign, Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade, who feared their operations would be hampered, submitted a powerful objection to the council. We even had celebrity backing from former Lindisfarne star Ray Laidlaw, who was born in Tynemouth and still lives in the village, and film and television actress Charlie Hardwick, probably best known for her roles in Emmerdale and Billy Elliot, who was born in Wallsend and often visits the Spanish Battery.
The developers had support from cycling groups and we always said we had no quarrel with them. Indeed, we backed their aspiration to get better facilities. We simply maintained that the plans for this sensitive location within the Tynemouth conservation area were inherently wrong on many counts and an area suitable for commercial development needed to be found. Many cyclists supported this argument.
A delegation accompanied by Mr Campbell and Coun Day handed over the petition to North Tyneside Council at its Cobalt Business Park headquarters and we were preparing to present our objections to the planning committee when the developer suddenly withdrew the planning application without explanation.
It’s too soon to celebrate. The developer can still come back with revised proposals for the site but the fact he has been forced to pull the plug on this application is cause for satisfaction. If he comes back with a new scheme on the same site he can be sure he will face the same objections for the same reasons. If, however, he comes back with plans for a cycle hub at an acceptable location in Tynemouth, or perhaps North Shields Fish Quay, that would be different.
We have always said we are not anti-cyclist, many of our members are cyclists, and we support better facilities for cyclists in North Tyneside. But these need to be in the correct location. The Spanish Battery, a tranquil and beautiful spot, steeped in history and free from commercial development, is clearly not that place. Any developer wanting to build a cycle hub with a leisure outlet including a large cafe and a shop, needs to find a location which enjoys widespread public support, not one which provokes widespread opposition.
We have accepted an invitation to contribute to the cycling strategy for North Tyneside being drawn up by the council with help from cyclists and we are certain that working in co-operation improved facilities can be provided. We have suggested several locations for a cycle hub, if that is what people want. We are particularly persuaded by the argument that North Shields Fish Quay, an area of deprivation earmarked for regeneration, would welcome this sort of inward investment and could provide an ideal location. Our group has also put forward the idea of what we call the Tynemouth Cycle Wheel which would involve businesses working together to provide facilities such as bike racks so cyclists are able to better enjoy a drink and a meal in the great pubs, cafes and restaurants which abound in Tynemouth Village.
Once again, we would like to thank all those who supported our campaign. We now hope that the developers will reveal their intentions as far as the Spanish Battery is concerned. The people of Tynemouth deserve no less.
Our campaign reached an important milestone when our elected representatives, Alan Campbell, MP for Tynemouth, and our Tynemouth ward councillors Sarah Day and Frances Weetman, decided, after considering the facts, to support the opposition to commercial development at the Spanish Battery.
They are respected community representatives who know the area well and are familiar with its needs. Clearly, their opinions are valuable and hopefully will be listened to by all concerned in this highly controversial matter.
We understand completely the position of our third ward councillor, Karen Bolger, who as a member of the planning committee, will remain neutral until the application is heard.
This is what our elected representatives had to say:
Alan Campbell, MP: “Tynemouth is an award winning seaside village and the reason for that success is because regeneration has been sensitive and has had the backing of most residents. It is clear that this proposed development is neither sensitive to the area nor does it have local backing.
“We all want to welcome visitors including cyclists to Tynemouth but it’s not obvious that this site in particular marks the end of the cycle way nor is there anything proposed here that could not be provided nearby either in the village or as part of the Fish Quay regeneration.
“But above all this is green open space, part of Tynemouth’s history, and much loved by visitors and residents alike. Just because it’s possible to develop somewhere doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a good idea. Take away a quiet open space and you cannot easily put it back.”
Coun Sarah Day: “Although I am not opposed to a cycle hub in general I do not believe that the Spanish Battery site is a suitable location.
“It’s one of the last quiet spaces in the area for residents and visitors alike and it would be a real shame to lose it for future generations. Once it’s gone we will not get it back.”
Coun Frances Weetman: “I support the Friends of the Spanish Battery as it is vital we preserve this area of beauty and historic importance.
”The cycle hub proposal is not in keeping with the local architecture or aesthetic and will spoil this idyllic stretch of coastline.”
We totally agree with what our representatives are saying and we thank them for their support. In the face of the growing local opposition, we can only hope the developers, who have stated their desire to listen to and work with the local community, reconsider and drop this plan.
Here are the before & after images of the garden we have found. The Before image is from the Developers House Listing on RightMove from 2010 where he quotes “MIND BLOWING GARDEN on the headland with the best views in Tynemouth!! DEVELOPERS GAMBLE! [will sell at £50,000 with parking bay] – Planning potential.” Before it can be seen well maintained and looked after. The After Image shows the current sorry state of the garden as the Developer has let it become overgrown and unkept to backup his claims that the embankment is unkept and untidy.
The Friends of the Spanish Battery are a group of individuals formed to oppose recent plans to develop on this historically significant headland in Tynemouth Conservation Area. What started as a unanimous decision by the residents of the Spanish Battery has now grown into a movement much wider, involving people from far and wide, all with a strong passion to protect this area that means so much to them.
Some of us are opposed for environmental reasons, the loss of habitats, huge irreversible excavations and introduction of concrete to the area, others are concerned about the significant loss of much valued publicly owned green space, most are concerned by the loss of heritage and character that will occur if this high impact development proceeds.
People are genuinely concerned that the planning application is too vague, open to interpretation and consists of buzzwords such as ‘cycle hub’ which hold little or no legal standing. A large number simply do not feel that there is a need for potentially another late opening licensed venue in the village particularly in an area away from existing businesses on front street. We are all concerned about the noise and disruption that the excavation and construction of the development will cause and the lasting impact that a new large scale commercial enterprise will have on the area with deliveries, noisy industrial extraction systems, regular refuse collections and the general increase in traffic.
As Friends of the Spanish Battery we are unanimous in our agreement that cycling should be more celebrated in the village of Tynemouth and feel that there are other more inclusive and free to use alternatives that could easily be incorporated.
The following plans were submitted in 2011 by the same developer who wanted to build a house where he has now proposed to build a cycle hub.
To use these objections and to view more information on how to object to the propose development visit our Objection Guidelines page