South Tyneside driving test centre facing closure - campaigners say loss would ‘cost £2million’ and cause ‘huge disruption’
South Tyneside’s driving test centre is facing closure, sparking an outcry form campaigners.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has confirmed the centre at the Bede Industrial Estate in Jarrow is being “evaluated”, with civil servants claiming any effect on learner drivers and instructors will be “minimalised”.
Full details have not yet been revealed, but closing the South Tyneside test centre would make Gateshead and Sunderland the nearest.
A pressure group has sprung up to launch a social media campaign, and an online petition has already attracted over 1,600 signatures.
Opponents of the closure include Jarrow MP Kate Osborne and Fellgate and Hedworth councillor Geraldine Kilgour.
Among the campaigners’ concerns are that South Tyneside learners will need to travel for lessons, as that is where they will ultimately have to sit their tests.
They say that this in turn will lead to increased waiting times for lessons and tests, increased lesson costs, learners used unqualified instructors such as parents, possible loss of skilled instructors and examiners, more pollution due to extra commuting and more congestion in Sunderland.
They also say it would become more convenient for instructors to take on pupils from outside the area rather than from South Tyneside.
The group estimates the move could cost £2million to South Tyneside’s economy.
Ms Osborne said: “I strongly oppose any moves to remove any services from the DVSA Test Centre on the Bede Industrial Estate in Jarrow.
"This would have a devastating impact on learners, instructors and examiners.
“The Bede Industrial Estate site is a hugely important part of the local community and has been for decades. Generations of families have passed their driving test there and it would be a devastating loss to the South Tyneside and our close-knit local community if this unnecessary and wholly unacceptable closure was allowed to happen.
“I have written to the DVSA and the Transport Minister about this issue as a matter of urgency.”
Vikki Holt, speaking for the pressure group, said: “It’s not going to be ideal to learn to drive in South Tyneside. They’re going to want to drive where they’ll be having their test will be.
“It’s going to impact the Sunderland instructors too, and the price of lessons is going to go through the roof, while extra commuting time will need to be added for each lesson.
“None of it makes any sense at all. We’ve just had COP26, but this is going to add to CO2.”
A DVSA spokesperson said: “We can confirm that South Shields (sic) driving test centre is being evaluated, as part of a review of DVSA properties.
“However, we will communicate with local driving instructors when we have further information. We have carried out a review to ensure that service provided locally continues to be of a high standard, and the impact of any proposed closure is minimalised.”
In a letter to campaigners DVSA chief executive, Loveday Ryder, added: “A larger site in Sunderland is approximately 5/6 miles away and the examiners at South Shields will be working at Sunderland to ensure our local service delivery continues to maintain a high standard.”