Residents on South Tyneside's oldest council estate have a new view this week after bulldozers moved in to demolish 16 houses to make way for a school playing field, an all weather pitch and an arts block.
Clearance of the Ashgrove Avenue houses, which have stood in Cleadon Park since the 1920s, has created space for an extension to the playing fields and new sports and arts facilities for the community at Ridgeway JMI School.
The demolition is thought to be the only example in the country of housing making way for school playing fields. It has been financed by Sport England as part of the 'Spaces for Sport and Arts' initiative which has brought nearly £2.2 million into the borough for improvements to five schools. South Tyneside Council has also ploughed £750,000 of its own funding into the project.
Local Councillor Jim Foreman who is chairman of the Cleadon Park Partnership says: "This is the first of many building blocks that will go towards the long term regeneration of the estate. We are extending the playing field and building an all weather pitch and an arts block to provide a unique facility that can be used by all the community."
He adds: "This is the first time that housing and education have worked together in partnership for the benefit of everyone living on the estate. There is still a lot to do but the residents can see for themselves that action is being taken and we are committed to regenerating the estate." Frank Coverdale, Housing Policy Manager for South Tyneside Council said: "The local residents have been very patient with a site that became an eyesore for several weeks as families were rehoused. The improvement now is tremendous, with a new view of the school and new facilities promised. We will continue to work with residents to improve the estate, and more attractive surroundings for the school is an important part of that process."
Margaret Kirkland, Headteacher of Ridgeway School, said: "The staff at the school can't believe how far the demolition has come. The plans have been around for a while and now they are close to reality - it's really exciting. There will be a multi-use games area and sports pitch, and a new arts centre and changing rooms."