SENIOR councillors have welcomed plans to transform a derelict former church hall into eight new residential flats.
Hartlepool Borough Council owns Morison Hall, on the Headland, but is set to transfer the freehold to the New Deal for Communities (NDC) Trust as part of wider £850,000 plans to bring the building back into use.
The local authority bought the three-storey building, which dates back to 1892, at public auction in 2010 and the NDC Trust, in conjunction with Vela Group, is looking to renovate it into eight flats.
Councillors on the finance and policy committee have welcomed the plans, which will now go before full council.
Denise Ogden, the council’s director of regeneration and neighbourhoods, said: “This is the best proposal at the moment to get this building back into use.”
The site was marketed for sale this summer and informal tenders were invited, but none were received.
But during the tendering period the NDC Trust had been looking at proposals to redevelop the hall with the hope of securing significant grant funding to deliver a “viable refurbishment scheme”.
Labour councillor Robbie Payne, chairman of the council’s regeneration services committee, said: “This is a building that has been a blight for a long time.
“This is good news for the people that live on the Headland.”
The confidential terms of the transfer have not been released, but the trust anticipates the total cost of their refurbishment scheme is around £850,000.
A grant of £351,000 from the Homes and Communities Agency has already been secured while they have also been awarded an approved grant of £49,000 from the Social Investment Business.
Trust officials are looking to fund the remaining £450,000 through a secured loan from the council to be paid back over 40 years.
The refurbished property will be used as security against the loan agreement between the council and the NDC Trust and the council would have a first charge against the property in order to ensure the council’s investment is protected.
Mrs Ogden added: “Conditions have been included to minimise the risk.”
Officers said if the scheme does eventually go-ahead the property would be added to the NDC Trust’s small portfolio of properties for affordable rent.
The property is not a listed building, but it is located within the Headland Conservation Area.