Councillors clash over Seaton regeneration cash

The Longscar Centre. Picture by FRANK REID
The Longscar Centre. Picture by FRANK REID

The leader of Hartlepool Borough Council defended a decision to reallocate £600,000 earmarked for the development of a derelict seaside building to a town-wide regeneration pot.

The council previously set aside the money for the demolition and redevelopment of the Longscar building at Seaton Carew but a Compulsory Purchase Order was unsuccessful.

Seaton couoncillor  James Black

Seaton couoncillor James Black

As part of the authority’s budget process, councillors voted by a majority to transfer the £600,000 to its overall regeneration budget for the town.

The move was opposed by Seaton councillor James Black who said it went against a previous commitment of the former administration to keep the money in Seaton.

Coun Black said it came from the sale of Seaton’s sports hall and youth centre in Elizabeth Way which made way for new housing.

He said transferring the money would remove the one income stream that would allow the council to rid Seaton of the Longscar centre.

Hartlepool Council Leader Christopher Akers-Belcher.''Picture: TOM BANKS

Hartlepool Council Leader Christopher Akers-Belcher.''Picture: TOM BANKS

Coun Black said: “Hartlepool has a number of problematic buildings, one which recently went up in smoke, yet we have a chance to fulfil the dream of the Seaton Masterplan, but by no longer earmarking this money, means it is no longer there for its purpose.

”To vote to allow the £600,000 to be moved from an earmarked pot to a central budget would mean it would be potentially swallowed up in small meaningful but unsubstantial projects instead of its absolute and legal purpose to be used in Seaton Carew.”

The Longscar centre, which is privately owned, has been vacant since 2009. But an attempt by the council to force the owners to sell failed following a public hearing.

Leader of the council Christopher Akers-Belcher said around £7m had been invested in Seaton during his time in office.

Coun Akers-Belcher said: “By moving it to a centralised pot does not mean that it cannot be used for Seaton as Seaton is an integral part of our regeneration of the town as a whole.

“If the opportunity arises in the future we would still be able to access funds from the central pot.

“There are other schemes for the whole of Hartlepool that may come forward that will generate economic growth at an earlier date than waiting for money that may never be spent on the Longscar.”