INNOVATIVE plans to transform a derelict former church hall into eight new residential flats have won planning approval.
Hartlepool Borough Council owns Morison Hall, on the Headland, but is to transfer the freehold to the New Deal for Communities (NDC) Trust as part of wider £850,000 plans to bring the building back into use.
The local authority bought the three-storey building, which dates back to 1892, at public auction in 2010 and the NDC Trust, in conjunction with Vela Group, is looking to renovate it into eight flats.
Their plans were unanimously backed by the council’s planning committee.
Labour councillor Jim Ainslie, who represents the Headland and Harbour ward, declared a personal interest at the planning committee meeting but he welcomed the plans.
Coun Ainslie said: “This is a welcome development for the people of the Headland.
“Morison Hall has a great history and is an iconic building, but for many years it has been a blot on the landscape and an eyesore.
“The people of the Headland will think Christmas has come early.
“This is great news.”
Labour councillor Rob Cook, committee chairman, said: “It is about time this building was brought back into use.
“It can only help the area.”
The site was marketed for sale this summer and informal tenders were invited, but none were received.
But during the tendering period the NDC Trust had been looking at proposals to redevelop the hall with the hope of securing significant grant funding to deliver a “viable refurbishment scheme”.
The confidential terms of the transfer have not been released, but the trust anticipates the total cost of their refurbishment scheme is around £850,000.
A grant of £351,000 from the Homes and Communities Agency has already been secured while they have also been awarded an approved grant of £49,000 from the Social Investment Business.
Trust officials will fund the remaining £450,000 through a secured loan from the council to be paid back over a period of 40 years.
The refurbished property will be used as security against the loan agreement between the council and the NDC Trust and the council would have a first charge against the property in order to ensure the council’s investment is protected.
Denise Ogden, the council’s director of regeneration and neighbourhoods, has previously said: “This is the best proposal at the moment to get this building back into use.”
The property is located within the Headland Conservation Area.