Pledge to solve Odeon problem

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MAYOR Stuart Drummond has pledged to finally find a solution for a derelict building.

Hartlepool Borough Council officers have drawn up a strategy in a bid to sort out the former Odeon cinema building, in the town’s Raby Road.

The Grade II listed building is privately owned and has stood empty for the past 11 years.

But Mayor Drummond pledged that despite a number of setbacks, the council will find a solution to develop the site.

Development briefs have been sent out and officers are expecting expressions of interest to be submitted before Christmas.

One option is the Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) route, but the local authority needs to be able to show there will be an end use for the building, which is jointly owned by brothers Barry and Terry Wilkinson.

Mayor Drummond, portfolio holder for community safety and planning, said: “We have had a lot of false starts with this one.

“We have been so far down with potential solutions and it has always been thrown back in our face.

“It is nearly always down to the owners of the building not wanting to co-operate or being unreasonable over the price.”

Mayor Drummond added that the strategy will strengthen the council’s options in finding a solution.

He said: “This gives us a strong hand for a CPO if we go down that route and we will if we have to.

“I would like to avoid that and come to an agreement to acquire it from them.

“If they won’t then we will find a solution some how.”

The strategy has a number of objectives including establishing regular contact with the owners, finding an appropriate use for the site and establishing an alternative proposal should a use not come forward.

A report to the meeting said that officers had recently met with English Heritage, who supported the strategy document.

Earlier this year, the council agreed to step in to carry out emergency work on the building after reports of masonry falling from the site.

The cost for any repairs will be passed on to the owners of the building.

Local authorities have the power to make repairs on privately-owned buildings that are posing a threat under the Building Act 1984.

The building has featured in the Mail’s Spot the Grots campaign aimed at highlighting derelict sites that spoil the look of the town.

Built in the 1930s, the cinema was designed with a single storey auditorium with room for 1,600 people and was a very popular entertainment venue.

It closed as a cinema in 1981 and subsequently had a number of uses, including as a snooker club.

The 1990s saw it converted into a nightclub with two small cinema screens but it closed its doors in 1999.

The owners were not available when contacted by the Mail.

l Follow Richard Mennear on Twitter@RMennearHMail