Changing the town’s character forever

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TWENTY years ago the new Hartlepool Marina development was seldom absent from the pages of the Mail. But, as ANDREW LEVETT discovers, it wasn’t all plain sailing for the £160m project.

A DREAM that had been 30 years in the making was becoming a reality in Hartlepool’s former docks.

That was how Mail industrial reporter Paul Wenham began an enthusiastic report about “the marina that’s much more”.

Critics had said the ambitious scheme would not get off the ground or become “bogged down in a financial and bureaucratic mire similar to the real-life mire that the old south docks became when work began”.

But, wrote Paul, what visitor to the site would dare predict now that the scheme will not succeed?

The report and pictures praised the atmosphere of a Spanish fishing village, continental feel to the walkways and intricate wrought ironwork of the balconies.

Paul wrote: “Like some massive jigsaw puzzle, each piece of the grand design envisaged by the Teesside Development Corporation (TDC) is gradually slotting into place.”

Work was beginning on demolition of the old United bus depot, to make way for the six-lane road linking the marina to the town centre “radically altering the character of both”.

But two days later, on September 9, 1993, a potentially negative impact of the marina on the town centre was making headlines in the Mail.

Town centre trader Bill Picken, of Farrar’s fishmongers, warned the shopping complex planned for the marina could “force the closure of 30 struggling stores”.

Peter Everest, managing director of Waxy (Hartlepool), which owned Middleton Grange shopping centre at the time, told the paper the £6m marina plan for 24 high-class shops and a food court placed a “serious question mark” over proposed refurbishment of Middleton Grange.

Leading Hartlepool councillor Harry Clouth disputed the view of Hartlepool Borough Council leader Bryan Hanson that the marina shopping complex would lead to “major job creation”.

Coun Clout told the Mail: “I don’t know how many jobs the new complex will create.

“But the question is – how many jobs will it take away from the shopping centre?”

There was also controversy over who was building the marina, with town MP Peter Mandelson claiming “local labour is barely being used”.

TDC chief executive Duncan Hall told the Mail he was “absolutely astonished” by the claim and said the current phase of the development “included several contracts for Hartlepool firms”, although he could not say how many local workers were employed.

What are your memories of how Hartlepool was changed by the marina, for better or for worse?

Contact Andrew Levett by emailing andrew.levett@northeast-press.co.uk or write to him at Hartlepool Mail, New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool, TS24 8BX.