Square revamp still on ‘radar’

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REGENERATION chiefs say plans to revamp a town centre square are still on the “radar”.

Hartlepool Borough Council had hoped to spend £520,000 transforming Church Square as part of wider plans to boost town centre businesses.

But the plans were deferred last October amid fears the cost would top £1m because of the 30-year loan needed to fund the scheme.

At the time businesses expressed disappointment that the plans had been axed until the council’s finances were in better shape.

The Church Square scheme was discussed yesterday at a meeting of the council’s regeneration, economic development and skills portfolio.

Labour councillor Peter Jackson, portfolio holder, made the original decision but said the plans should not be shelved forever.

Coun Jackson said: “Now is not a good time to be spending money in that way.

“But it is an excellent scheme and some time in the future, when we do have more money available, it is something that we should look at again.”

At the time a public consultation got 232 responses and 70 per cent said they were in favour.

Damien Wilson, the council’s assistant director of regeneration and planning, said: “We will keep this on the radar.

“We will certainly keep you posted if any opportunities arise.”

Mr Wilson added that noises coming from the Government suggested there may be more money for regeneration schemes in the future.

Of the initial £520,000 price tag, the council planned to use £130,000 from its own funds for major regeneration schemes.

It would have borrowed the remaining £390,000 which would have been repaid at a rate of £39,000 a year over 30 years, totalling £1.17m.

The aim was to encourage businesses to move into some of the empty shop units to serve the hundreds of college students with the creation of an education quarter.

The first phase would have included increased pedestrianisation of Church Square, more grassed area around Hartlepool Art Gallery, re-surfacing and extra seating and planting.

The road around Church Square was also set to be altered to reduce the impact of traffic.

Coun Jackson met to discuss what maintenance has been carried out over the years.

When the plans were first deferred he asked officers to come back with a report outlining the cost of keeping Church Square in its current condition.

A report said that since 1999 a “significant amount” of maintenance had been carried out as a result of displaced or broken flagstones.

That is because the paving materials are not “sufficiently robust” to withstand the amount of vehicles that use the square.

Since 1999 there has been 389 individual repairs, 150 of which have been made since 2006.

It was not possible to quantify the exact cost but on the basis that an average repair costs £200, it is estimated maintenance has cost about £77,800 since 1999.

Coun Jackson said based on the maintenance costs alone the scheme does not merit being done at the moment.