Plans to sell site agreed

The site of the former Crown House building Tower Street. Picture by FRANK REID
The site of the former Crown House building Tower Street. Picture by FRANK REID
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COUNCILLORS have agreed plans to sell a piece of land to be transformed into much-needed student accommodation.

Hartlepool Borough Council is to sell the former Crown House site, in Surtees Street, to a housing association as part of plans, which have already been given planning permission, to build the new accommodation.

Work is set to start in September after the Vela Group housing association was granted permission to build four new accommodation blocks to house 56 Cleveland College of Art and Design (CCAD) students on the site of the former Crown House building.

The new accommodation, which is expected to be ready for August 2014, will include two apartment blocks with 21 en-suite bedrooms and two town houses with en-suite bedrooms and bedrooms.

The decision to sell the land was taken by the council’s finance and policy committee.

A report said the confidential details of the sale will be subject to formal negotiations with the Homes and Communities Agency about grant conditions that were attached to funding for the original purchase and clearance of the site.

Officers said negotiations were ongoing with the HCA in order to recoup the council’s share of the capital receipt.

The building, which used to house offices of the former Department of Health and Social Security, was partly demolished in 2010 as part of plans to create an innovation and skills quarter and the site was cleared leaving only the original basement car park surface.

Councillors agreed to the sale of the land to the Vela group, subject to the council receiving 100 per cent of the capital receipt from the HCA.

It was also agreed by members that if the council does not get 100 per cent then another report will go back before the finance and policy committee for further talks.

Labour councillor Robbie Payne asked if leasing the land with the opportunity to buy it at a later date was an option for the association.

Damien Wilson, the council’s assistant director of regeneration, said a lease option was not under consideration at this stage and may not fit into Vela’s business model for the site but said it could be explored further if committee members wanted to go down that route.

Councillors said the option of receiving 100 per cent of the capital receipt should be pursued first, in view of the council’s proposal to reinvest in projects in the area, such as the redevelopment of the nearby Market Hotel, in Lynn Street.

The council-owned building has been empty for several years after the closure of a restaurant business which ran from the building in 2007 and plans are in place to transform it into nine new flats.