Council gets unexpected cash boost from Sports Domes in Seaton Carew

Brian Morton at the Sports Domes
Brian Morton at the Sports Domes

A COUNCIL has been given an unexpected cash boost which it plans to help repair roads with, employ enforcement officers and fund a free swim scheme for children.

Hartlepool Borough Council has accepted a confidential - but significant - lump sum from the owners of the Sports Domes at Seaton Carew in exchange for the release of the authority’s financial interest in the development.

Bosses at the Domes, in Tees Road, say it will allow them to secure further investment in the site and to add more facilities. The site already includes two domes for football and golf, a health and fitness studio and an ice rink to follow.

The council’s finance and policy committee has agreed to ring-fence the money for a number of projects, subject to approval at a future full council meeting, including:

• Help managing the risks around the £1.5m two-year interest-free loan from a Government growth fund used to buy Jacksons Landing. Money had already been put aside for when the loan needs to be repaid but this cash boost will tot that up to the full value;

• Running the popular free swimming scheme over the six-week summer holidays at Mill House Leisure Centre again;

• Employing two new enforcement officers to help tackle problems with dog fouling and littering in communities;

• Adding to the £131,000 Government funding to help fund an extra 10 road resurfacing schemes. Footpaths will also be tackled.

The committee agreed to the release of a restrictive covenant on the Domes land in 2012 to allow it to be disposed of for a neighbouring residential development, with the proceeds of the sale invested by the owner to develop the Domes.

It was agreed subject to repayment over 15 years, but now a lump sum offer has been accepted.

Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher put forward the list of proposals.

Coun Akers-Belcher said: “Despite the unprecedented cuts in Government funding, the council remains positive about the future and we have to forge ahead.”

The majority of councillors welcomed the proposals.

Conservative group leader Ray Martin-Wells said: “That money will prop up quite a number of services. It will also guarantee the security of the Jacksons Landing project.”

Labour councillor Peter Jackson said: “We could bring forward 10 schemes from the five-year road resurfacing plan.”

Putting Hartlepool First councillor Geoff Lilley said he felt “uncomfortable” agreeing to ringfence the money after being put on the spot.

He added: “There is no rush to spend this money. I was always told to think a good few times before you spend any money.”

Dave Stubbs, the council’s chief executive. said the offer only came in this week and needed to be concluded quickly.

Mr Stubbs told members the “vast majority” of the lump sum would stay in the council’s coffers with the amount of money being ringfenced for the swimming, enforcement and road schemes only a “small proportion”.

He added: “I appreciate how it may look in the short space of time we have had but this needs to be concluded in the next few days.”

Labour councillor Chris Simmons said: “I don’t think we are rushing this, we should take the offer on the table.”

The committee agreed to ringfence the money, with further reports going to the neighbourhood services committee and the proposals will need final approval from full council.

Coun Lilley voted against “in principle”.

Entrepreneur Brian Morton from the Domes told the Mail: “When we looked to develop the Domes, the council lifted their covenant and an agreement was put in place over a 15-year period.

“We have now agreed a sum of money to be paid back to allow us to help secure further investment in the site and to add more facilities.”