Middleton cabins: Row breaks out between Hartlepool council and Tees Valley Mayor over £10 million fund

Demolition of the Middleton Cabins
Demolition of the Middleton Cabins

The Mayor of Tees Valley has claimed Hartlepool’s Middleton cabins could have been saved by council chiefs after giving them access to £10 million.

Tees Valley Combined Authority Mayor Ben Houchen says it allocated the money in January for Hartlepool Borough Council to draw on to support small projects.

Demolition on the Middleton Cabins

Demolition on the Middleton Cabins

Mr Houchen says the money ‘could easily’ have been used to help cabin owners at Middleton remain on their site for the last 20 years off Ferry Road.

But Hartlepool council disputes what Mr Houchen says the funding can be used for, instead saying it is for supporting economic growth and creating new jobs.

The coastal cabins have existed for 70 years and served as a place for owners to socialise and work on hobbies.

The council has said budget pressures were to blame for them not renewing a 10-year lease with the site owners PD Ports and providing a £10,000 rent subsidy to the cabin owners.

Ron Clark at the Middleton Cabins. Picture by FRANK REID

Ron Clark at the Middleton Cabins. Picture by FRANK REID

The lease came to an end at midnight on Tuesday, April 23, when all 36 cabin owners were given notice to vacate the site.

JCBs have since moved on and are in the process of clearing it.

Mr Houchen said: “In January, we made available £10 million to Hartlepool Borough Council to support small projects that are important to local people.

“How this money is spent is at the Council’s discretion, but I’m disappointed that they have taken the decision not to use some of this money to save the Middleton Cabins.

“I understand that the cost of the cabins to the council is £10,000 a year – an amount that could easily be funded through the money we have allocated them.

“The cabins have been an important fixture of community life in Hartlepool for 70 years and their tragic loss will be felt by a huge number of people in the town.”

A small number of cabins have been moved onto the neighbouring Old Yacht Club site, with hopes to add more subject to council planning approval.

Hartlepool’s £10 million allocation is part of a 10-year £588 million investment plan to transform the economy of the Tees Valley that was agreed by the combined authority in January.

The combined authority was not able to provide funding directly to Middleton Cabin Owners as its role is to drive economic growth and job creation.

But it said local councils have more freedom over how the money is used.

But the council hit back saying: “We are somewhat confused and bemused by Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen’s comments.

“The Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) funding referred to is intended to be used for stimulating economic growth and creating new jobs. Clearly, Middleton Cabin Owners Limited (MCOL) do not meet these criteria.

“Following the Council’s decision to cease paying the rental subsidy required to enable MCOL to stay on the site they previously occupied, we worked with cabin owners to try to identify other sites and alternative sources of funding.

“This involved us consulting the TVCA and several months ago we were advised that MCOL was not a scheme the TVCA could invest in. Since then, Mayor Houchen has made no contact with us to suggest how TVCA funding might be used to support MCOL, so it is very disappointing that he has chosen to speak out publicly in this way.”

Ron Clark, a director of Middleton Cabin Owners Ltd, said: “I’m bitterly disappointed that the council saw fit not to at least appraise me of this and tell me the reasons why they didn’t do so because they haven’t.

“I find it sad and very upsetting. We have gone beyond the point of no return.”