A large-scale regeneration scheme for Seaton Carew has been given the go-ahead as part of plans to boost visitor numbers.
The major revamp of the seafront will see the creation of new space for outdoor events, new play areas and includes the demolition of the derelict Longscar Centre.
But the building owners objected to Hartlepool Borough Council’s intention to knock it down and said they have their own leisure plans and could re-open the building by next spring.
The plans, approved by the council’s planning committee yesterday, are linked to a proposed masterplan which outlines a range of developments on three parcels of land from the paddling pool north of the Longscar Centre to the bus station and art deco clock tower to the south.
Proposals include a new water play facility and bringing back beach huts.
The revamp scheme was submitted by Esh Developments, which the council is working alongside as part of its Seaton regeneration plans.
Broaden the visitor appeal of Seaton Carew above other competitor locations
Council officers said the proposals will make Seaton more attractive to visitors and bring more money into the town.
Sean Hedley, speaking on behalf of the applicants, said: “The proposals will result in a number of material benefits, including a regeneration of the seafront to form the focal point for the town’s leisure and tourism office to create areas of exceptional quality public realm and play provision to broaden the visitor appeal of Seaton Carew above other competitor locations.”
Much of the debate among councillors at yesterday’s meeting centred on the Longscar Centre which has been empty for six years and been labelled an eyesore as it fell into disrepair.
Its removal is described as key by the council for the success of the revamp scheme.
The building is owned by brothers Barry and Terence Wilkinson, but they have granted a long-term lease to their sons Craig and Gary Wilkinson.
The family set up the company Longsco Ltd last year to refurbish the building and bring it back into use.
Agent David Stovell, acting on behalf of the owners, said they supported the overall regeneration of Seaton Carew but said it would be best achieved by retaining the Longscar Centre.Mr Stovell said: “If it was not there, it is exactly the type of facility that a Seaton Front regeneration scheme would likely identify as an important need.”
He added there was interest from companies wanting to use it as a children’s soft play area, for bingo and ice cream parlour.
The council is trying to obtain the building including seeking a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) in order to demolish it.
Councillor Ray Martin-Wells supported the regeneration scheme but suggested working with the Longscar Centre’s owners to improve its appearance.
He said: “If we can work with the owners and they are prepared to move quickly, I believe that would be a better solution.”
But Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher disagreed with altering the plans for the area, saying: “I think this has went on long enough. Seaton had got a bright future and I don’t believe the Longscar Centre features in that future and we have got to ensure that we move ahead with the demolition.”
Area One - Longscar Centre and surrounding area
Intended demolition of the Longscar Centre and creation of a multi-functional market and events space. New hard standing areas to allow temporary events to take place.
Other improvements to the public space including cycle stands, new lighting, benches and seating areas.
Area Two - Paddling pool area north of the Longscar Centre
Removal of paddling pool in favour of a surface-level water play facility, beach huts, play equipment and picnic area.
Proposed upgrade of the car park to the south of the Longscar Centre and create a new single entry and exit point.
Area Three - Land around the bus stop and clock tower
New soft landscaping areas and connecting footpaths and upgrading the bus stop with new block paving.
It is intended to use the open space for outdoor events such as concerts, funfairs or markets.