Mothballed Hartlepool Northern Lights Academy building looks set to return

General view of the Northern Lights Academy on King Oswy Drive in Hartlepool  Picture: DAVID WOOD
General view of the Northern Lights Academy on King Oswy Drive in Hartlepool Picture: DAVID WOOD

A mothballed Hartlepool building could be back in use this year - offering a “vibrant hub” for students.

The state-of-the-art £4.5m Northern Lights Academy in King Oswy Drive has stood empty for more than 12 months.

Christopher Akers-Belcher and Gill Alexander. Picture by FRANK REID

Christopher Akers-Belcher and Gill Alexander. Picture by FRANK REID

But Hartlepool Council is hoping to clinch a lease from the Government to run it, and start offering courses from September.

Council leader, Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher said: “We are trying to get a package together to deliver apprenticeships and traineeships in the creative industries.

“That centre was mothballed and we need to bring it back into use and if we can get that scheme up and running, another building in a community will become a vibrant hub of activity again.”

The Northern Lights Academy in King Oswy Drive opened in 2011 after receiving a multi-million pound grant through the Big Lottery Fund Myplace Programme.

That centre was mothballed and we need to bring it back into use and if we can get that scheme up and running, another building in a community will become a vibrant hub of activity again

Christopher Akers-Belcher

But the facility for dance, music production, film production and performing arts struggled to reach its potential and temporarily closed in September 2015.

Coun Akers-Belcher said: “We had to do a feasibility study on what is going to work to bring it back into use.”

He said the council had spoken to organisations such as Cleveland College of Art and Design and Teesside University.

“It is trying to get a collaboration going but the main thing is to get a building that is currently laid idle back into use and what better way is to offer apprenticeships and traineeships and qualifications in a centre that has got really high quality equipment.”

Council chief executive Gill Alexander said the target was to “make it a place where young people can go to get qualifications and get on to employment pathways into growth sectors in the Hartlepool economy which will be around the creative and cultural industries.”

The council is working on a programme offering technical and vocational education for children from 14.

Ms Alexander said a pathway in a creative field would be “more motivating for them than having to stick with history, geography and whatever else because it will give them something which grows their gifts and talents as opposed to having to wait until they are 16.”

She added: “We are looking at a model which will link education from 14 through to 19 so that young people would get the qualifications they would need to perhaps go to CCAD or another university to get qualified in this area.

“We would also want the centre to be used more informally once we have got a funding stream coming through for that. It means we can then offer it for community use and for voluntary organisations to use.”

Coun Akers-Belcher said the building had “never been used to its full potential” but the council did not want to move on the future of the building until it had a sustainable plan in place.

The building was mothballed for more than a year but the Headland Development Trust “pretty much went bankrupt at the point of opening,” said Gill.

The council does not own the building but when the Trust went bankrupt, the interest in the building reverted to the Government.

Gill said: “We stepped in. We didnt have to, but we thought somebody needs to, and if we don’t who will.

“We are in the process of us being given a long lease for it which we have to agree to take on.”

“We are in the process of getting the lease from the Government and also putting the business plan and the funding package in place.”

She said the council was hopeful of running courses from September.