REGENERATION chiefs are looking to breathe new life into the town centre by offering help to new businesses.
The Indoor Market Project has been developed by Hartlepool Borough Council and aims to use six empty market stalls within Middleton Grange Shopping Centre for start-up businesses.
The idea is to give new businesses the opportunity to try their ideas before committing to a career in retail.
Shopping centre bosses have also agreed to waive the rent, service charges and insurance charges for the stalls for six months.
In a bid to help turn around the fortunes of empty town centre units in Hartlepool, the town was awarded £100,000 through the High Street Innovation Fund.
The council established a working group which has been developing a range of projects and the Indoor Market project is one of them.
Mayor Stuart Drummond was asked to give his backing to the plans at a meeting today.
A report by Damien Wilson, assistant director (regeneration and planning) said: “The support will consist of a pre-trading retail training programme covering specific aspects of retailing such as customer care, how to sell and online training.
“It is important that the support provides people with the skills to assist them in establishing successful, sustainable businesses.
“The project will include funds for a marketing campaign which will use a range of measures to encourage people to use and support the indoor market.”
It is planned to start the project in October so that businesses can be established before the busy Christmas period.
Staff at Hartlepool Enterprise Centre will identify eligible people to support.
The report added: “PPG the owners of Middleton Grange Shopping Centre are supporting the project and have agreed to waive the rent, service charges and insurance charges for the stalls for the six month lifetime of the project.
“This equates to a £50k match funding contribution from PPG.”
Mayor Drummond is asked to approve £20,000 from the High Street Innovation Fund for the Indoor Market Project and £5,000 towards improving signage advertising the town centre car parks to encourage more visitors.
Staff are also working on plans to hold specialist markets such as farmers markets, craft, food and continental markets to add “vibrancy” to the town centre.
Despite being awarded £100,000, Hartlepool missed out on becoming a Portas Pilot.
In total 15 town centres have been given extra cash for regeneration projects following a review by retail queen Mary Portas.
Known as “Portas Pilots” they will trial some of Portas’s recommendations and come up with new ideas.