Talks under way on replacing Hartlepool’s Marks & Spencer store

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE: Above, Middleton Grange Shopping Centre (below) centre manager Mark Rycraft
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE: Above, Middleton Grange Shopping Centre (below) centre manager Mark Rycraft

A SHOPPING centre boss says talks are taking place with several big store names in a bid to bring them to Hartlepool.

Managers for Middleton Grange Shopping Centre hope to find a new tenant for the Marks & Spencer store which will close this spring.

Landlords say they are also exploring options for other parts of the shopping centre as well.

Mark Rycraft, centre manager of Middleton Grange, said: “We are currently speaking to various high street names and looking 
at a number of options 
for the centre and the M&S unit.

“At this point we are not in a position to make any announcements but will do in due course.”

Bosses for Marks & Spencer announced their intention to close the Hartlepool store last July.

Instead the business will concentrate all of their efforts on a new food outlet at Anchor Retail Park, of Maritime Way.

Work at the unit, which was formerly occupied by JJB Sports, is going well and the new M&S is expected to be open by around May, although an exact date is still to be confirmed.

The staff workforce, of 50, currently based in the Middleton Grange store, which has been in the town centre since 1969, have all been offered positions in the new food outlet.

Given Marks & Spencer’s size and prominent location in Middleton Grange, centre bosses will be looking to find a suitable new tenant sooner rather than later.

The shopping centre is working closely with Hartlepool Borough Council as part of the authority’s new Vision project which aims to bring major improvements including improved frontages onto Victory Square.

At the end of last year the shopping centre welcomed the arrival to town of TJ Hughes who signed a 10-year lease for the former Westgate department store – Middleton Grange’s biggest unit at 38,000sq ft.

But a report published earlier this month said Hartlepool has the third highest vacancy rates in the country with more than one in four shop units standing empty.