A PUBLIC inquiry is underway into a multi-million pound scheme which aims to breathe new life into a rundown neighbourhood.
Hartlepool Borough Council’s housing market renewal (HMR) programme plans to transform the Perth Street area of town as part of a £4.8m scheme.
Twelve months ago senior councillors sitting on the council’s cabinet committee approved plans to buy the remaining houses using Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO) so that they could be flattened to make way for new homes.
The council imposed CPOs on the houses last August. But plans stalled when they were met with objections from landlords refusing to sell their properties, leaving residents in limbo.
Under Government legislation a public inquiry can be called if one person objects.
The inquiry opened yesterday and a Government planning inspector will report his findings to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, who has the final call.
Regeneration chiefs plan to demolish 199 properties and replace them with 95 modern and sustainable homes.
Perth Street resident Deborah Kirton, 46, told the Mail last summer that the street was “not fit to live in”.
“We have been told time and again that the demolition is going ahead and then time and again it is put back,” she said.
The public inquiry is being held at the Civic Centre, in Victoria Road.
Council officers say they have always tried to buy houses through agreement before going down the CPO route.
A council spokesman said: “The council has a proven track record in housing regeneration delivered through its House Market Renewal (HMR) programme for the benefit of local communities.
“It has successfully delivered the Trinity Square, Trinity Court and Headway sites for redevelopment as well as made other improvements to the town.
“The Perth Street scheme will make an important contribution to neighbourhood renewal and a CPO was necessary because it has not proved possible to acquire all the required property by agreement.
“At the public inquiry the council will put forward a strong case for compulsory purchase, backed by robust evidence.
“It is now for the Secretary of State to decide whether or not to confirm the CPO.”
Perth Street residents were first told to move out of their homes in 2006 when the regeneration plans were first announced.
But five years on and 27 of the 52 homes in the street are still occupied.
Negotiations between landlords and the council had reached a stalemate which led to the local authority going down the CPO route.