Calls to revitalise links between Hartlepool and German town Huckelhoven

Councillor Rob Cook
Councillor Rob Cook

CALLS have been made for a revitalisation of Hartlepool’s 40-year-old links with its German twin town.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s regeneration services committee met to discuss plans for a youth exchange programme in partnership with Huckelhoven, in Germany, using funding from the European Commission’s Erasmus + programme.

Councillors and council officers say such a scheme, which would see 30 young people from the town visit Hucklehoven and 30 German counterparts visit Hartlepool, could really broaden the horizon’s for the teenagers.

Patrick Wilson, the council’s employment development officer, said the proposal for a youth exchange programme stemmed from a visit to Huckelhoven by the council’s leader, Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, in December, and officers were asked to explore what external funding was available for the scheme.

He said the young people involved would be from the most deprived areas and this could increase their personal, social and employability skills.

He said the deadline for applying for projects is April 30 and permission was sought from the committee for approval to apply for the Erasmus + funding.

If successful, the town teens, in Years 9-12, would visit Hucklehoven for five days in February 2015 and the German teens would come to Hartlepool in the March.

Councillor Rob Cook asked how optimistic Mr Wilson was of securing the funding.

Mr Wilson said although his department had a lot of experience of winning bids, “we honestly don’t know, we put the bid in and hope for the best”.

Coun Cook said: “I think it’s a fantastic opportunity that such a thing can happen to reinvigorate our connections with Huckelhoven. Everything came to a stop, which is a shame.”

He expressed concerns that “enthusiasm” would grow for the scheme, only for the funding bid to be unsuccessful, but Mr Wilson said if needed, other avenues would be explored.

Coun Cook suggested a similar scheme with Hartlepool’s French twin town Sett.

Coun Akers-Belcher said during his visit, Hucklehoven residents “weren’t really sure why the links had been severed in the first place and were very keen to restore those links again”. “I think we should seize any opportunity that’s going to widen the horizons of our children and young people,” he added.