Church Square regeneration decision delay

COUNCILLORS have agreed to delay making a decision on funding for a regeneration scheme until after the public have had their say.

The decision came despite calls by a councillor to throw out plans to revamp Church Square, in Hartlepool, due to the amount of money involved.

Earlier this summer Hartlepool Borough Council unveiled the plans, which include a phased programme of re-modelling.

Councillors met last night to discuss the funding package for the scheme.

In a report, officers recommended that a decision to use £390,000 from the capital major regeneration projects budget towards the total £650,000 cost be deferred until the results of a public consultation have been collated.

Councillors agreed, but only after Conservative group leader Ray Wells called for the plans to be thrown out.

Coun Wells said: “How can we as elected members look people in the eye and say that we don’t have funds for bus subsidies and then spend a massive £650,000 on Church Square?

“I can’t for the life of me support this.”

Grange ward Labour councillor Chris Simmons said: “We should receive the report and find out what the consultation has come back with before making any decision to accept this or not.”

Fellow Labour councillor Marjorie James, who represents the Owton ward, supported that and added that it would be a one-off capital spend, while funding bus subsidies is an ongoing revenue cost to the council.

Burn Valley ward Labour councillor Ged Hall added: “If we don’t spend £650,000 on Church Square we can’t then spend it on bus services or keeping community centres open.

“It is important that we get that message out to people.”

Labour councillor Pamela Hargreaves, who represents the Owton ward, said the early indication was that 70 per cent of people were in favour of the plans.

The regeneration is part of wider plans to create an innovation and skills quarter on the back of the new £52m Hartlepool College of Further Education and the expansion of Cleveland College of Art & Design.

Officers are now collating the consultation results and a report will go before councillors in October.