I just about remember the TV show ‘When the Boat Comes In’. It was set in the fictional town of Gallowshields in the North East. If you’ve seen it even once, you’ll remember the theme tune, “Thou shalt have a fishy, on a little dishy, thou shalt have a fishy when the boat comes in.” It’s sung by Alex Glasgow – who also wrote and sang ‘The Socialist ABC’ with its wonderful sardonic ending.

‘Dance To Thy Daddy’ is based on old Geordie folk song, and predates the chapbook “Songs of the Bards of the Tyne” from 1850. We’ve been fishing from the Tyne for a long, long time.

The origins of North Shields Fish Quay date back to 1225 and Tynemouth Monastery. It was a natural safe anchorage, where the Pow Burn flowed into the Tyne. Today it’s the heart of our fishing industry and England’s biggest prawn port. The central harbour is known as the Gut, and the Pow Burn still flows into it, albeit through a culvert nowadays. The concrete jetty protects the fishing boats from weather and waves, and the strong tidal currents. Boats moor up at the landing quays and unload their catch. Close by is the fresh fish market, and the processing plants, fish shops and restaurants. The Fish Quay attracts visitors all year round to eat, drink and take in the heritage of the place. There are beautiful outdoor areas to spend time and enjoy.

It’s a unique and valuable part of North Tyneside and is a real celebration of local trade. You could set up a fish restaurant anywhere, and people do. But it’s the Fish Quay that provides the anchor (see what I did there?) for all these other local businesses to flourish. In a global world of corporate fast food, local character should be cherished.

But the Jetty needs repairing. This part of the harbour has been closed for access since November 2017. The harbour is still in use, but if the jetty goes altogether, we’ll lose our fishing industry. Which is why the North of Tyne is co-funding the rebuilding of the jetty.

This will protect 56 local businesses that support over 300 jobs. I’ve been working with Norma Redfearn at North Tyneside Council on a whole raft of investments. The North Shields ferry landing is being moved to the Fish Quay. This will integrate local transport links, and strengthen the local businesses. We’ve provided funding to North Tyneside Council to help with the regeneration of North Shields Town Centre. The North Shields Masterplan is a hugely ambitious piece of work to build hundreds of new homes, regenerate derelict land, and protect our fishing industry while improving the local transport, and the look, leisure and economy of the area.

The North East’s heritage is one of heavy industry and heavy work. Unfortunately that has left heavily contaminated land in its wake. In North Tyneside, we’re using our Brownfield Housing Fund to remediate old industrial land in places like North Shields. And, as you’d expect from a region with a rich seam of coalmining history, there’s a lot of old coal workings underneath our feet. We’re using our Brownfield Housing Fund to grout coal seams to ensure that development that takes place above is safe and secure.

But what are we helping to develop? Norma is the North of Tyne cabinet member for Housing and Land. We have designed our Brownfield Housing Fund programme to reflect the wide variety of housing needs in the area. It’s not just more homes we need. We need affordable council housing available for social rent. We need affordable properties for first time homeowners. We need new rented sector properties for young professionals to make sure we have somewhere for our young graduates to live. And we’re co-funding major regeneration works to the public spaces to make the area somewhere people want to live, work and socialise. It’s great to be building for the future whilst protecting our heritage. These industries defined our culture. And when it comes to locally sourced food, we need to protect it. Even if future generations haven’t watched When the Boat Comes In.

Published Originally in the Journal and Evening Chronicle 5.4.21