TONY GILLAN: Whinging again - constructive criticism is alive, but unwell, in Sunderland

It is nigh impossible to become excited about a car park, even the best car parks in Britain, such as the ones in Sunderland city centre.

Sunday, 3rd April 2022, 4:55 am
Updated Monday, 4th April 2022, 12:38 pm

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Almost 100 bays will be electric charging points. It will take around 16 months and £14million to build. Bang average numbers judging from reports of similar developments in York, Derby and Plymouth.

The forthcoming Riverside car park.

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Everything is there to be questioned, especially when it’s our money, not “theirs”. Firstly, do we need it at all? Then there are the financial as well as opportunity costs (what could be done instead with 14 million quid?).

There are environmental concerns about increased traffic and aesthetic issues too. Beauty, or otherwise, is in the eye of the beholder (although no city on the planet has car parks on its postcards).

But this smacks of constructive criticism and we can’t have that. What’s required, clearly, is instant knee-jerk condemnation, wild accusations and name-calling on social media.

A few words of libellous abuse will suffice; as long as “facts” support them. Here are a few as mooted on Facebook ...

The council sat down and decided there is no need for another car park. Having reached this conclusion they then said “Let’s spend £14 million on one anyway” and got cracking.

There is a new Auditorium and City Hall, plus older venues such as the Empire Theatre and Stadium of Light. The Sheepfolds development and footbridge are imminent, as is a possible 10,000 capacity arena, new businesses on the Vaux site, the Culture House, hotel in Keel Square, Gentoo moving staff into the area, the Galley’s Gill development...

But that’s all. Well, nearly. So the reasons for more parking space are shrouded in mystery.

There are too many empty shops to justify the car park. According to Facebook, the solution is to build even more shops.

Responsibility for empty units lies entirely with the council (they own everything). Just ask the 60-70% of people who won’t bother to vote in local elections.

No blame for the Sunderland’s retail problems can be attributed to online shopping. They can try that old chestnut in Tokyo, New York and the Metro Centre, but not round here. No way.

Also blameless are the Uncle Toms who prefer spending in other cities to investing in their own.

Sunderland is the only city where parking isn’t free (except after 3pm weekdays). You can park for nowt all day in Newcastle; no way does it cost up to £2.70 an hour in somewhere called Hood Street. Also reports last week of across the board rises in the cost of parking in Newcastle must be untrue.

Parking is free at the Metro Centre, so there. The petrol you use to travel there is also free and what’s more, it’s getting cheaper.

Apologies for the sarcasm; although not sincere ones. Undeniably, investment is needed across Sunderland. Holmeside, Blandford Street, parts of Washington… space precludes a complete list.

Criticism is warranted. City and council are light years from perfection. But discussion without thoughtful consideration and (true) facts is not discussion, or debate. It’s a slanging match.

And it does nothing for Sunderland.

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