WORK has begun on controversial plans to regenerate Sunderland’s seafront.
Businesses say proposals to ban vehicles from Marine Walk, in Roker, will cut them off from vital deliveries and the emergency services.
Pub landlords, an amusement arcade owner and a diving centre boss have come together to condemn the council scheme, which will see a barrier erected across the road in a bid to stop accidents during the summer season.
Paul Walsh, who runs popular music venue The Smugglers with partner Donna Gibson, first hit out at the scheme when it was mooted at the end of last year.
They joined forces with Bill Bellerby, who owns Roker Amusements and Cafe, and Bob Scullion, of the North East Diving Academy, to formally object.
But Sunderland City Council said no official appeal was lodged.
Now work has started at what the business owners say is the crucial start of their busy season.
Mr Bellerby, who has run the amusement arcade for 40 years, said planners promised 20 parking spaces close to his property, but this has now been reduced to 10 disabled-only bays.
He said: “I know my family business and the jobs of my small staff are at risk. I have many customers who are disabled, also some from care homes in the local area, some are in wheelchairs and some can only walk a short distance.
“These new traffic proposals will decimate my family business.”
Smugglers’ landlord Paul said: “As soon as they get the barrier up, problems will start.
“It is the start of the season when we get people down here.
“It will have a detrimental effect on the three businesses in Marine Walk.”
Mr Scullion, who has lived and worked on the seafront for five years, said: “It is like out of sight, out of mind.
“We have the biggest wreck sites in the country so we have people coming from all over the country to dive our ship wrecks.”
Keith Lowes, head of planning and environment at Sunderland City Council, said: “There has been extensive consultation about the Marine Walk Masterplan.
“In addition to the city-wide consultation, there has been a series of workshops with Roker businesses where the council has taken on-board more views, such as increasing the number of disabled parking bays.
“Work has been programmed for the summer months to lessen any weather damage and disruption from heavy seas and frosts.
“It is also, after consultation and advice from Natural England, less likely to disrupt species of protected sea birds that feed along the Roker shoreline in the winter.
“The improvement works are to regenerate the area and attract more visitors to the seafront and the city as a whole, which will ultimately benefit local businesses.”