A HISTORIC building is to be flattened to make way for new houses after controversial plans were narrowly approved.
Developers have been given the green light to demolish Tunstall Court, in the West Park area of Hartlepool, and work is expected to start within weeks.
Hartlepool Borough Council’s planning committee agreed plans by five votes to three, to the delight of nearby residents who say the arson-hit building has “blighted” their lives.
But there was dismay from heritage and conservation groups who fought to save the building from the wrecking ball.
Tunstall Court - which is not listed but is classed as “locally significant” - has been plagued by vandals and arsonists but owners Ruttle North East now have permission to turn the site into 14 executive homes.
Nearby resident David Johnson said: “It is a miracle nobody has been killed or seriously injured in the building. It is a major drain on resources that needs to stop.”
Conservative group leader Ray Martin-Wells, speaking on behalf of residents, said: “This has blighted the lives of the residents I represent for too long. Nobody wants to destroy heritage buildings but I was elected to represent people not property.”
Richard Tinker, of the Victorian Society, said it deserved “one final chance for survival,” adding: “The poor condition of an important building, whether down to neglect or failure to secure it, should not be used for justification for demolition.”
Chris Pipe, council planning services manager, stressed the owner had tried to secure it and “no evidence has been provided to demonstrate that there has been deliberate neglect”.
In voting against, Putting Hartlepool First councillor Geoff Lilley said: “This is a step too far.” Labour councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher, among the five to vote in favour, admitted it was one of the most difficult decisions he’d had to make but added something had to be done from a “safety point of view”. Once the final conditions have been agreed developers have one month to demolish it.
The historic building was formerly used as a council training centre but then transferred into private ownership. Tunstall Court, deemed a dangerous building by the council’s building control team, is an undesignated heritage asset within the Park Conservation Area. Previous access was from The Parade, with two lodges situated off The Parade which are both Grade II Listed and in separate ownerships. Hartlepool Civic Society and English Heritage also objected, along with local history groups who filmed the meeting.