Good for Pools and the town

NEXT week’s Cabinet agenda is a big one and on it are quite a number of important items that will lay the foundations in a number of service areas for the year ahead.

One of these items which is already gathering a lot of interest is the master plan for the Mill House site and the potential transfer of the land that the football stadium stands on to the football club.

The council and the club have been in negotiations over the sale of the land for over a decade and at last, I think we have a solution that will suit all parties.

I say “all parties” because the proposed way forward with the master plan is far much more than a simple land transaction between the club and the council. It is a well thought out and not over-ambitious vision for the whole area around the ground to which a number of prominent local companies and organisations are keen to sign up.

The master plan will allow us to start proceedings to compulsory purchase the former Odeon cinema and find a solution to get that building back into use at long last. There will be the opportunity to provide some residential units on part of the site that currently sits unused.

Cleveland College of Art and Design are keen to sign up to the plan as they are looking to expand their offer of university courses in the town and for that they would need accommodation for their students.

Cameron’s brewery, which owns the Mill House pub, is also very interested in signing up to the master plan and they have spoken about investing into their bit of the site.

Hartlepool College of Further Education is also interested in becoming a partner in the delivery of the master plan as is Hartlepool Sporting Association which is made up of a large number of the prominent local sports clubs from across the sporting spectrum.

The indoor bowls club currently lives in a building that is in need of investment and there will be an opportunity for new facilities either on site or elsewhere.

On top of that, of course, the Mill House leisure centre is in need of major investment.

The long term aspiration of this master plan will include a complete rebuild or refurbishment of the leisure centre and the model we are working towards for the area will provide an attractive proposition for investment from both public and private sectors.

I’m delighted that Gus Robinson Developments is keen to come onboard as the preferred developer for the site.

They are one of the most well known and trusted companies in the town and the development of this plan could well see a number of extra local jobs created

Speaking of which, Hartlepool United is already playing host to a training company, Cablecom, which, since August, has already put 130 people through a course in fibre optic cabling, many of whom have gone on to get a job. Cablecom is also keen to sign up to the master plan.

The decision on whether to kick off this master plan by agreeing to the transfer of the ground to the football club will rest with the full council due to the fact that I’m a season ticket holder at Pools.

Any transfer of the land will be conditional on the club signing up to this master plan.

The agreement will also include a covenant that the land must always be used for a football stadium.

Previous offers from the club have always included the waste land to the north of the ground. This transfer will not. In fact, it will be a key piece of land for housing development so the council will actually realise the cash and social value out of this piece of land.

Running alongside this master plan, the council and the football club jointly commissioned an economic impact assessment of Hartlepool United on the town and the results are impressive.

The club generates over £5m per year into the local economy. Some 271 of its 310 staff live in Hartlepool and 15 of their 23 main suppliers are Hartlepool-based companies. The club’s owners, IOR, have invested more than £13m into the land and the club since they bought the club in 1997.

Their commitment to Hartlepool has been unquestionable over the last 15 years and their support of this master plan shows that they are willing to commit to the regeneration of the town for years to come.

Every Pools fan will tell you that if we were to get promoted into the championship, we could really do with extending the capacity of the ground. It is not unfeasible that the club may build a new stand on the rink end and I’d love to see that filled with community facilities and even a hotel.

After years of false starts, I firmly believe we have a window of opportunity to pull everything together and get the commitment of all concerned. This will be the first step towards some major improvements for the Mill House area in the near future.