Letters, Friday, September 21st, 2012

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Grasp the nettle over Sunniside

THE resurgence of Signatures restaurant in Silksworth after struggling in Sunniside tells us a lot about the challenges faced by traders in Sunderland’s “cultural quarter”.

More than £42million has been invested in the area to the east of Fawcett Street, with Sunderland taxpayers stumping up over £9million in local contributions.

The grand visions for Sunniside included “an urban renaissance”, “a vibrant and exciting city quarter”, “a lively evening economy” and “a dynamic small-firm economy”.

But these ambitions remain unrealised as Sunniside continues to slumber, suffering from a lack of footfall with the pavements tarted up but few people walking on them.

Perhaps Chris Mullin, the former MP, was right when he warned that the plans for the regeneration of the area were “far too elaborate” with fine buildings looking out of place.

The nettle that needs to be grasped in Sunniside is the proximity of a cultural quarter to areas of severe social issues and has been raised before at council level but without any effective action ever being taken.

What would also help are regular cultural events such as interesting markets and better advertising of the many excellent restaurants and cafes.

Another challenge is the continued shift of the city centre towards the west with the closure of Joplings and the resurgence of The Bridges pulling the retail core away from Sunniside.

What the problem is not about is “the recession”, a useful but misguided excuse given that all the key dates of the regeneration precede the financial crisis and austerity measures.

Fortunately there are green shoots of recovery emerging with a government grant supporting a Hilton Hotel at the Joplings site and a Travelodge set to open this year.

But until there is political will to deal with the real issue which is hampering the success of Sunniside it will continue to be a place which people avoid rather than visit.

Councillor Robert Oliver, Leader, Conservative Council Group

Seafront decline

RE the gloomy faces of councillors regarding the downgrading of Seaburn, they’re good actors.

What is so terrible about this? The council obviously doesn’t think it is worth spending money there – facilities are zilch. There is not even a toilet available after 5pm in the summer.

The council would rather spend money on coloured lights and water formation in a slum area where no man sets foot.

They should visit South Shields and see what councils with common sense can do for a seaside resort and family life. But perhaps not – this might prove too embarrassing.

Mrs M. Wright, Ashleigh, Gillas Lane West, Houghton

Good jobs news

THERE is more good news on the jobs front. New figures released show unemployment has fallen again in the North East as well as nationally.

More good news is promised. Manpower’s survey of employers shows that the outlook for jobs is the strongest it has been for four years.

Over 300,000 jobs have been created this year.

James Hick of Manpower said that “the UK jobs market is due for a further boost for the remainder of 2012”.

The number of people in work has risen by 501,000 since the General Election in 2010.

Keith O’Brien, St Chad’s Crescent, Middle Herrington, Sunderland

Peace Games?

I AM a 70-year-old man who retired in November 2011 due to the effects of angina, diabetes II, arthritis and various other disabilities of age.

Looking at the Olympics and especially the Paralympic Games, it felt almost for a few weeks like having the “myth” of world peace. John Lennon would have been so proud. Pity that so many other countries and people are not interested.

So many people won medals for excellence. All Paralympians should get a special medal just for the very effort of overcoming their disabilities and competing in such an event.

To see such people who can even be able to smile is worth a medal in my book. I don’t know if I could, and hope I am never put to the test.

For a few weeks we have seen such perfection. I hope the world will continue to practise. Maybe we can all reach perfection and achieve peace.

Maybe every nation large or small in the world should be offered a chance to compete in a World Olympic Peace Games. A few weeks of world peace. As someone once said: “Maybe I’m a dreamer”.

John A. Stott, Stridingedge, Blackfell

German turnaround

NOEL Coward wrote a wartime song urging the British not to be beastly to the Germans after the war.

Echo readers may be interested to know Sunderland gets a mention in the opening line, no doubt because of the bombing raids the town endured.

I was reminded of this when I read Sarah Stoner’s Wearside Echoes (September 15). I think the air raid she mentions was the same one in which one of my aunt’s friends was killed in Hendon. A Luftwaffe bomb caused a gas mains explosion near Valley Road School.

Although we were not feeling too kindly towards our former enemies in 1945, we had a responsibility to help them get back on their feet.

We took Noel Coward’s advice. In fact we Brits should be well pleased with the way we helped the Germans establish a liberal parliamentary democracy in their country. No more Prussian generals, no nasty Nazis, and now Germany has the dominant economy in the EU and tells everyone else what to do.

Henry Whipple, Coach Road Estate, Washington

Rail line rubbish

AS a lifelong member of Bowes Railway and an enthusiast of all forms of public transport, I have no problem with the proposed funding for the city rail station concourse from Nexus, the city council and any others.

My grouse is with Network Rail. Millions are certainly going into rails, two of the biggest in the South East, but no money for the mothballed Leamside line, when the 21-mile system would be an asset to the North East, and no money for the disgraceful environment around our Metro rail tracks.

We have lost civic pride. Travel from Gateshead Stadium to Jarrow station, look at the rubbish down to the taxi office. The other day 25 bottles and cans at Pelaw station and part of Felling.

I thought about doing my bit, jumping down and starting to clear up with a rubbish bag, but a lady standing on the platform said, you will be fined for trespass by Network Rail.

Nexus is improving the Metro system, but no one is prepared to clean up all the rubbish.

Having written many letters, including to our city’s transport spokesman in the past, is the partnership across public transport the future way?

Teesside has indicated that way, with not much PR from our Tyne and Wear system.

Bill Craddock, Donvale Road, Washington

Charlie Chuck

IN answer to Stan Taylor’s letter (September 8) enquiring about Charlie Chuck, as his niece I remember visiting him in Wellington Street, just off Stony Lane in Southwick. He lived there with his parents.

I remember going to visit him with my parents many, many years ago. He would open a box he had and show me the whistles which he used to play in the street. One whistle was shaped like a fat cigar and called an Ocarina. He also had numerous pencils and sharpeners of all shapes and sizes.

He would write down a list of hymns as the family were keen Salvationists.

He took epileptic fits and when I was a young girl, my mother told me about the time he had a fit and pulled a large pan of boiling water over him which burnt him rather badly.

Uncle Charlie was a very gentle soul. He used to pretend to chase the children when they ran after him. The stick he carried, he told me, was to keep the dogs at bay.

His father died early on and his mother was left to take care of him after he died. Charlie Jeffries, that was his correct name, had to go into a home where he died.

E. Dorans, Ferryboat Lane, Hylton Castle, Sunderland

Coffee for charity

MACMILLAN Cancer Support would like to invite all of your readers to take part in our World’s Biggest Coffee Morning on September 28.

Just get together with family, friends or colleagues and enjoy cakes and a coffee – a very enjoyable way of helping us raise the £10.7million we need to reach more people affected by cancer.

The money you raise will help Macmillan fund specialist nurses, new cancer centres and grants to support people living with cancer who have financial problems.

Everyone who signs up will get a fund-raising pack and lots of ideas on how to make their event a success, but whether you choose to have a coffee morning on the official event day, a cocktail evening at the weekend or a quiz event the week after is up to you.

All we want is for people to do something they enjoy with people they want to spend time with while raising some money for Macmillan to help us be there for people with cancer when they need us most.

For more information visit www.macmillan.org.uk/coffee or call 0845 070 1315.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Lindsay Kay, Wearside and South Tyneside Fund-raising Manager, Macmillan Cancer Support