A CEMETERY could be in line for a major boost if innovative council plans to open a cafe are backed.
Hartlepool Borough Council is looking to transform the Stranton Cemetery Lodge building, within the Tanfield Road-based cemetery, into a new cafe.
Officers want to make structural alterations and extensions to the building.
If approved, the cafe would be based on the ground floor of the building, which is on the draft Local List for Hartlepool and identified as a heritage asset.
The council’s planning committee met yesterday to discuss the plans, which would see the building’s purpose change from offices into a cafe, for the first time.
Members backed the plans, but wanted more details on the parking arrangements before giving the green light.
As it stands the opening hours would be 8.30am to 4.30pm from Monday to Saturday and from 8.30am to noon on Sundays and bank holidays.
But councillors asked officers to consider keeping it open longer, especially on Sundays.
The plans have been welcomed by the Friends of Stranton Cemetery Group which aims to raise awareness of the site, help ensure it remains a peaceful environment and reduce crime.
Independent councillor Steve Gibbon, who is the group’s treasurer, said: “I am sure that everybody that uses the cemetery would appreciate a place to have a drink and a bite to eat. It is a positive move as far as the group is concerned.
“The more people we get coming into the cemetery the greater chance we have of cutting down levels of anti-social behaviour.
“I hope that it is up and running as soon as possible.”
Ahead of the meeting, the council had received four letters of no objection.
Details of how many jobs would be created have not yet been released.
A report said a small extension would provide a kitchen and a covered patio area which would be built using materials to match the existing building with no alterations to the first floor.
Councillors heard that there are more than 40 parking spaces in Tanfield Road but not within the cemetery grounds.
Instead, old garages to the back of the Lodge would be replaced with parking spaces but that is subject to a separate planning application.
Councillors said it didn’t make any sense to approve the cafe before knowing the parking plans and it was agreed to defer the final decision to a future meeting.
Independent councillor Paul Thompson said: “I do support this application, but I would like to ask that it is deferred until we have the prospective parking plans.
“It is integral.”
Labour councillor Rob Cook, committee chair, said: “It would have seemed logical to have done that but until the parking is right then it won’t go ahead anyway.”
Damien Wilson, assistant director of regeneration and planning, agreed to check with the relevant officers and get the plans back as soon as possible.
The application could be withdrawn and resubmitted with the parking plans to save costs.