Seaton’s set for brighter future

THE most exciting and yet the most frustrating part of this job is being heavily involved in the regeneration and redevelopment of the town or, more precisely, projects that help to regenerate different areas of the town.

It is fantastic to be able to be part of the germ of an idea to transform and improve an area then be involved in developing the idea into a set of proposals.

It is a rewarding challenge to be tasked to finding solutions to problems that are inevitably turfed up along the way and the icing on the cake comes when work begins and all of the hard work comes to fruition, providing major improvements to communities in Hartlepool into the bargain.

The biggest frustration for me in all of this though, is the time it takes for things to happen. The “system” in Britain is notoriously slow, laborious and bureaucratic and although this Government is making a lot of promises about cutting red tape, I’m yet to see this in practice.

I’ve got to say that Hartlepool Borough Council is pretty good at working practically with developers to look at solutions and ways to make developments happen rather than finding reasons why they shouldn’t. However, despite our best efforts, nothing ever happens quickly.

It is especially pleasing to be able to press ahead with regeneration and development in the middle of a global economic crisis and the Cabinet will be considering a report to appoint a preferred developer to partner the Council to deliver the master plan for Seaton Carew.

It seems like an eon ago that round after round of consultation took place with the residents of Seaton about redeveloping four sites.

We’ve held a competitive tender process during which the prospective developers were interviewed by some Seaton residents and the Esh Group, subject to Cabinet approval, will be appointed to turn the proposals into a reality.

A quite innovative approach was taken by the Council in that four key sites in Seaton were put together and marketed as a package.

Two of the sites are prime housing sites at Elizabeth Way and Coronation Drive and it gave us the chance to find a solution for two of the more problematic sites, the Longscar Centre and the old fairground site on the front.

As well as bringing two derelict sites back into use, the deal will generate in the region of £5m which the Cabinet has stated will be ring-fenced to be spent on the regeneration of Seaton Carew.

A pot will be set up to invest into Seaton for things like community facilities, sea defences and regeneration of the front.

There are actually one or two other really exciting developments for Seaton Carew already in the pipeline so we will be looking at maximising every penny that is spent there to ensure that the area gets as much benefit as possible from the money that is coming its way.

Since I’ve been doing this job, the complaint I have always got from residents of Seaton Carew is that no one ever spends any money at Seaton and they feel like the forgotten neighbourhood. Although that is not true, this is certainly the first time for a long time that residents can look forward to quite a large amount of funding being spent in the area in a co-ordinated way and what’s more, the residents will get a big say on exactly where the money is spent.

As part of the Cabinet proposal, public consultation will be carried out and, from early indications, there appears to be a swathe of support from the community.

I don’t want to count any chickens before they’ve hatched with these developments as there is still a very long way top go.

For instance, unless we can acquire the Longscar centre from the owners by agreement, we will have to go down the compulsory purchase route and the wheels for that are already in motion.

This will take time though and is one of the frustrations I mentioned earlier.

There will also be detailed planning procedures to follow when the time comes which are necessary but time consuming.

With all of that taken into account, I’m still very confident that these proposals, which started as an idea a long time ago, will be realised and the meeting on Monday will act as a major stepping stone in that process.

I don’t know how long it will take to get the first spade in the ground but I think Seaton Carew can start looking forward to some positive change in the very near future.