Hartlepool Art Gallery cafe plan gets go-ahead

BOOST: Hartlepool Art Gallery
BOOST: Hartlepool Art Gallery

STUDENTS will revive a town attraction’s cafe after being given the go-ahead by councillors.

Young people from Catcote Academy, which teaches students with a range of learning and physical disabilities, will run a catering facility at Hartlepool Art Gallery.

The gallery’s former cafe was removed by council bosses after a review of local authority-run facilities that were not making a profit.

Catcote Academy approached Hartlepool Borough Council with the idea to provide students with valuable work experience.

A 12-month project will take place after councillors on the council’s Finance and Policy Committee gave the project their unanimous support.

Geoff Lilley, Rossmere and Fens Putting Hartlepool First councillor, said: “I support the scheme 100 per cent.”

Seaton Carew UKIP councillor Tom Hind added: “I’m fully supportive of this.”

Coun Hind also suggested the council explore establishing high profile events to boost visitors to the gallery in Church Square.

Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher said that was already being done as part of the new arrangement between the National Museum of the Royal Navy and Hartlepool Maritime Experience.

Conservative councillor Brenda Loynes for Hthe artlepool rural west ward, also supported Catcote Academy running a gallery cafe.

But she questioned whether the proposed operating hours of 10.30am to 2.30pm could be extended.

Damien Wilson, the council’s assistant director of regeneration, said if the move proves to be a success it could be a model the authority looks at in the future.

He said: “I imagine it revolves around the needs of individuals working from the school.

“If it proves to be successful it will be something we can look at.”

Hartlepool Art Gallery’s cafe closed in December 2013 after a review by the council found investment had not paid off and council-run cafes were facing increasing competition from private companies in town.

A council report said visitor numbers had declined more than 20 per cent after the cafe was removed.

It added: “The benefits of this option are that this will be supporting adults with special needs to gain valuable work experience and could provide a Fair Trade option.”