I think Chi Onwurah would be well impressed with the plans for the regeneration of Wallsend and hopes for its future. I expect most people in these parts are well aware that Sting and Vicky Pattison are from Wallsend but I bet most people haven’t heard of Chi Onwurah? – a labour party politician, born in Wallsend and elected as MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central in the 2010 election. She was Newcastle’s first black MP and has an impressive track record, gaining a degree in electrical engineering and before becoming an MP was Head of Telecoms Technology at OFCOM. A particular concern of hers is the lack of female students on engineering courses with the UK having the lowest proportion of professional female engineers in Europe and feels boys and girls are still stereotyped from an early age, for example, in toys shops, which still seem very much geared to be gender specific, dolls for girls and cars for boys etc.
Ask most people about the North East and particularly Wallsend and they probably think of ship building, mining, engineering and heavy industry and would recognise Sting’s recent song, ‘When The Last Ship Sails’ , now of course the ship building and coal mining industries are not what they once were, circumstances change resulting in loss of jobs, sites are no longer in use and people have to deal with the future.
In 2009 North Tyneside Council acquired the former Swan Hunter site with assistance from One North East (ONE) which has now been taken over by HCA (Home & Communities Agency) with plans to keep the site in employment use with marine related manufacturing and engineering. So, Swan Hunter has now entered into the subsea industry and wants to concentrate on offshore installation equipment for the renewable and traditional subsea oil and gas industries, if all goes well, they hope to employ more in this area with other industries in the supply chain which can only benefit and help in the regeneration of Wallsend.
Nearby is Shepherd Offshore Neptune Park situated on the site of the former Neptune Shipyard with its dry dock facility and incorporating manufacturing companies such as GE Oil & Gas and along the way you have SMD (Soil Machine Dynamics) one of the world’s leading manufacturers of remote intervention equipment operating in hazardous environments worldwide.
Offshore Group Newcastle (OGN) have applied for planning permission to erect 2 gantry cranes and 1 ringer crane at Hadrian Yard in Wallsend to use in the removal of jacket foundations for wind turbines during their construction and after completion. The application is due to be discussed by North Tyneside Council on 10 January 2017 and if all goes ahead it has the potential to create hundreds of jobs and provide a boost to the local economy.
So I would say Wallsend is still very much involved in engineering and manufacturing but in different ways.
As well as these developments and the regeneration in engineering and manufacturing in Wallsend, there is the new River Retail multi-million pound regeneration to the Forum which includes plans for a new Aldi and Burger King drive thru restaurant. On the housing front, the Council has already completed one affordable housing project, built on the site of the former police station and temporary housing centre in the High Street and is wanting to build a further 3000 affordable homes within the next 10 years.
We would say all this is only good news for the regeneration of Wallsend and who knows may even lead to Sting penning another song!
‘There are constant cycles in history. There is loss but it is always followed by regeneration. The tales of our elders who remember such cycles are very important to us now’. (Carmen Agra Deedy) – international award winning children’s author.