COUNCIL bosses have defended plans to buy houses in a rundown neighbourhood as part of a multi-million pound scheme.
Hartlepool Borough Council’s Housing Market Renewal (HMR) programme plans to transform the Perth Street area by demolishing 199 terraced properties and replacing them with 95 modern homes.
So far just 92 properties have been bought “by agreement” by the council, costing more than £3m.
But the development has stalled after plans to buy the remaining houses using Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO) were objected to by landlords.
Landlords including Jomast Property and Finance, which owns three houses in the area, and agent Thomas Stevenson, who represents 52 landlords, objected to the plans which led to the public inquiry being held at the civic centre.
They argue that there was no proper consultation with landlords in the private rented sector, that the proposals are out of date and that houses should be repaired or adapted instead of demolished.
But council officers say there is a history of empty properties in that area, that there is an oversupply of small terraced housing in town, and that refurbishing properties in the Perth Street area would not address the need to meet demand and provide a variety of properties.
Stuart Monk, managing director of Jomast Property and Finance, said: “I believe that this process, and the way that the council has gone about this particular subject, is not acceptable.
“It is flawed, fundamentally flawed.”
He added: “A comprehensive refurbishment approach is required.”
The total cost of buying all of the houses is expected to be around £10m. Keepmoat Homes has been chosen as the preferred developer.
Nigel Johnson, the council’s housing regeneration and policy manager, said there was a “strong and compelling” case for CPO after a “robust” analysis after being quizzed by Ian Pennock, barrister for Jomast.
He added: “There has been community engagement in the process and support for the council’s proposals. We have also appointed a preferred developer who will shortly be bringing forward a planning application.
“It is considered that the order is necessary to facilitate redevelopment and it will contribute to the economic, environmental and social wellbeing of the area.”
He added that in hindsight the council could have done more to consult with private landlords and not just the tenants directly, but that no-one was “excluded from the process”.
Twelve months ago the council’s cabinet committee approved plans to buy the remaining houses using CPOs, but plans stalled when they were objected to last August.
The three-day inquiry, which is expected to finish today, is being heard by Government planning inspector Philip Major.
He will report his findings to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, who has the final say as to whether CPOs can be used.