Derelict building ‘putting lives at risk’

The former Odeon cinema
The former Odeon cinema

MAYOR Stuart Drummond has slammed the owners of a derelict building for putting lives at risk.

Hartlepool Borough Council has had to step in and carry out emergency work on the former Odeon cinema building, in the town’s Raby Road, after reports of masonry falling from the site.

Work on the privately-owned Grade II listed building will initially cost the local authority £25,000. But that will eventually be clawed back from the owners.

Mayor Drummond said public safety is the main priority. He added: “It is really frustrating that the owners of the building have let it fall into this state.

“It is disappointing because the council and others have tried several times over the years to get a solution to bring it back into use.

“Something like this shows how obstinate they can be but when they are putting people’s lives at risk it is unacceptable.”

The mayor gave officers the go-ahead to carry out work to the external walls at a meeting of his community safety and housing portfolio.

The cost for any repairs will be passed on to the owner of the building, Capanac Leisure, which was unavailable for comment when contacted by the Mail.

Local authorities have the power to make repairs on privately-owned buildings that are posing a threat under the Building Act 1984. The former Odeon building has stood empty for the past 11 years. The council was forced to step in after reports that pieces of masonry had fallen from the building onto the surrounding pavements and road.

Barriers were immediately put up to restrict access and the council asked the owners to take action to repair the external walls.

But despite repeated request only short-term measures were put in place.

The local authority applied to the magistrates’ court to order the owners to carry out the work, but that deadline expired at the end of May.

Mayor Drummond said: “Public safety has to be the main priority here and the building is dangerous. I am pleased we have gone down the right channels to make it safe.” Mayor Drummond said he would like to see the council make a compulsory purchase order. But officers said they would first need to identify a viable solution.

The building has featured in the Mail’s Spot the Grots campaign aimed at highlighting derelict sites that spoil the look of the town.

Built in the 1930s, the cinema was designed with a single-storey auditorium with room for 1,600 people and was a popular entertainment venue.

It closed as a cinema in 1981 and has since had a number of uses, including as a snooker club.

In the 1990s it was converted into a nightclub with two small cinema screens. But it closed in 1999 and has never reopened.