Hartlepool landmark developers told to ‘pay up’ and improve surrounding area

Morrison Hall which has undergone a refurbishment. Picture by FRANK REID
Morrison Hall which has undergone a refurbishment. Picture by FRANK REID

Planning councillors said they would not be held to ransom by an organisation that is redeveloping a former derelict church.

Hartlepool New Deal for Communities (NDC) Trust, which is converting Morison Memorial Hall on the Headland into eight flats, asked Hartlepool Borough Council to waive £48,000 in developer contributions.

They made their bed, now they need to finish the development

Coun Ray Martin-Wells

The sums, which break down to £2,000 each to improve the area’s green infrastructure, play and sports facilities, were imposed as part of the planning permission granted by the council in December 2013.

A new report claimed the cost of the contributions could put the whole scheme at risk. But the NDC Trust has since told the Mail that is not the case.

Councillors on the planning committee unanim-ously rejected the request.

Councillor Ray Martin-Wells said: “I propose we don’t let them off the hook, we will have every developer coming forward. Sorry, they made their bed, now they need to finish the development.”

Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher said: “I don’t want to lose this development but equally I’m absolutely appalled at the financial planning of the organisation.

“If they can’t deliver it maybe we need to be looking at people who can deliver it because it’s completely unacceptable. I think we are being manipulated.”

Headland councillor Jim Ainslie added: “Looking at it from the outside, the work has been fantastic, yet I think a game is going on here.”

Malcolm Walker, chairman of Hartlepool NDC Trust, said: “We accept the committee’s decision although we are disappointed that it has gone against the planning officer’s recommendation, particularly because the £6,000 would have been put towards providing even more training opportunities for 10 extra unemployed local people.

“As a charity, we welcome any support we get from other organisations so we can maximise the benefits we provide to the wider community. This decision does not jeopardise the development in any way and we are pleased with its progress so far.”