Defence funding is backed

The sea wall close to The Heugh Gun Battery
The sea wall close to The Heugh Gun Battery

COUNCIL plans to borrow £1.3m towards the £9m cost of a major sea defence scheme have moved a step closer.

Hartlepool Borough Council is looking to strengthen defences at the Heugh Gun Battery and the Block Sands because if no further works were carried out over the next 100 years, 562 commercial and residential properties would be at risk of erosion.

The total cost is £9.645m but the bulk of which, over £7m, is coming from the Environment Agency. Hartlepool Council needs to put in £1.8m, £500,000 of which has already been set aside.

Councillors on the authority’s finance and policy committee were asked to back plans to borrow the £1.3m, which they did, before final approval is gained from full council.

Officers involved in securing the bulk of the external funding were also praised at the meeting.

Denise Ogden, the council’s director of regeneration and neighbourhoods, said the proposal was to borrow £1.3m over 50 years and to pay it back at a rate of £62,000 a year.

The money for that would come from the maintenance budget, which should have less pressure on it in future if the work is carried out.

Mrs Ogden said: “Hartlepool Borough Council is managing to attract a lot of funding and we have been recognised as one of the best in the region, if not nationally, at doing that.”

Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher said: “Our thanks to the officers involved, this is a job well done.”

He added that the council was still in negotiations with Northumbrian Water to try and secure a contribution towards the work and bring the council’s amount down.

Councillor Keith Dawkins, Putting Hartlepool First group leader, asked who owned the Heugh Breakwater pier. It was confirmed that PD Ports own it and are responsible for maintaining the structure.

Kieran Bostock, the council’s senior engineer, said: “All we can do is maintain the defences behind it. The breakwater is detiorating but it won’t go overnight.”

The plans are still subject to planning permission.

The finance and policy committee gave its backing to the funding plans, which will now go before a future meeting of full council for final approval.