COUNCIL plans to buy a derelict retail unit that has stood empty for years have been backed by senior councillors.
Hartlepool Borough Council is hoping to buy Jacksons Landing, on Hartlepool Marina, in a move which Mayor Stuart Drummond has described as “almost a no-brainer”.
The confidential sale price has not been revealed. But it is understood to be a fraction of the £10m valuation before the credit crunch hit.
Earlier this year officers entered into an exclusivity agreement with the owners Schroders, a global asset management company, to buy the building, which has stood empty since July 2004.
A price has been agreed and the deadline for the deal to be finalised is August 31, subject to full council approval.
Mayor Drummond said: “We have been saying for a while that the council needs to be more entrepreneurial.
“In doing that we will inevitably take more risks. But what has pleased me is the amount of interest that has come back.
“Balancing that with the potential risks, it is almost a no-brainer.”
The “lock-out agreement” allowed time for a feasibility study into the building’s future use and officers are considering all options.
The site could be demolished or turned into office, retail or accommodation space. The cabinet committee met yesterday to discuss the scheme.
Councillors backed the plans, which will now go to full council in early August for approval to borrow money to finance the deal.
If the funding package is agreed and the sale goes through the site would be marketed and bids invited.Mayor Drummond said residents will inevitably ask why the council needs to be involved.
But he argued it could lead to the council receiving a regular income or a one-off boost to the public coffers if it is sold.
Mayor Drummond said: “We can also include conditions to get the building back into use that is a massive benefit to the town. We hold all the aces.”
Labour councillor Pamela Hargreaves said: “This is not just about the building but the knock-on affect to the other businesses at the marina if we just do nothing. We should go ahead with this.”
Independent councillor Hilary Thompson said: “The profile of the town was raised so much because of the tall ships races and it would help tourism tremendously if we can turn this building around.”
The building was placed on a hitlist of buildings needing attention to prevent them spoiling the look of the town.
Jacksons Landing is one of the eyesores featured in the Mail’s Spot the Grots campaign, which was launched after Mayor Drummond drew up a shortlist of landmarks that are badly in need of repair.
The £5.5m project opened in 1995 and was seen as the centrepiece of the marina’s reincarnation.