£36,000 spent on retail site

NEW figures show council bosses have so far spent almost £36,000 on plans to redevelop a derelict retail site.

Hartlepool Borough Council is yet to buy Jacksons Landing, at Hartlepool Marina, as part of plans to then sell the land on for redevelopment.

But a report due to go before full council this week reveals a total of £35,935.63 has been spent on advertising, marketing and site survey costs.

The figure also includes £8,549.63 of officer time spent working to see if the council’s plans are viable, a total of 304 hours.

That includes internal and external meetings, project development works and the preparation of reports.

Senior officers say it has been a “complicated process” due to the nature of the site.

In total, £24,750 has been spent on soft market testing with agent and potential developers, £2,616 on engineering and environmental surveys and £20 on land registry fees.

Mayor Stuart Drummond said recently he is hoping to report some “positive news” about the site imminently.

Council officers met with the owners Schroders in London in early March and talks are ongoing.

The report into the costs comes after calls for exactly how much money had been spent on the proposals to be made public.

When quizzed at previous meetings, Mayor Drummond said he did not know exactly how much officer time had been spent on the plans, but said that was the job they are paid to do.

Now the breakdown has been produced.

The report by Dave Stubbs, the director of regeneration and planning, said: “When undertaking project development of this nature it is always difficult to predict what the outcome will be and inevitably there will be some projects which require substantial project development costs due to the scale and complexity of the specific projects.

“This aspect of officer time is part of the day job and is in effect the role officers are paid to do during their normal course of their work.”

If those costs are removed, the real cost to the council is £27,386.

Mr Stubbs added: “Bringing forward the development of Jacksons Landing has been a complicated process not least because the site is not in the ownership of the council, but also because it has an existing structure on it and identifying a suitable a viable use in the current economic climate has presented some difficulty and indeed risk.”

The rumoured sale figure is around the £2m mark, but Mayor Drummond has previously said it was a “lot less” than £2m.

The building has been empty since July 2004 and talks have taken place with a number of interested developers.

Last year the council entered into a “lock-out” agreement with owner Schroders to give it time to produce a feasibility study.

If the sale does go through, two thirds of the site could be redeveloped for housing and the rest for commercial use.

The full council is due to meet on Thursday at 7pm at the Civic Centre.