Town centre revamp plans

Jim Ainslie
Jim Ainslie

AMBITIOUS plans to breathe new life into the Church Street area of Hartlepool have won the support of councillors.

Hartlepool Borough Council is looking to develop a programme of events around the Church Street area incorporating the Art Gallery and Studio, public art work, bring back into use empty properties and specialist support for the “creative sector”.

That will include developing units for new creative and cultural businesses and a Creative Fund to offer grants and loans to start-up businesses.

Regeneration chiefs at the local authority say it “won’t happen” overnight but they aim to breathe new life into that part of town with this new strategy.

A key part of the work is to include creative industries in the town’s ‘innovation and skills quarter’ and to help graduates from Cleveland College of Art and Design (CCAD) start up new businesses.

Rob Smith, the council’s senior regeneration officer, said: “90 per cent of the graduates from CCAD are currently from the Tees Valley with many of them going on to become freelance and establishing small businesses elsewhere.

“By providing the right conditions and support there’s an opportunity to encourage them to stay in Hartlepool.”

It is all tied in with the Hartlepool Vision which is aimed at revitalising the centre of Hartlepool, and spark the town’s regeneration and the aim is for Church Street to be at the heart of a “vibrant” innovation and skills quarter.

Members of the council’s regeneration services committee met yesterday to endorse and adopt the Hartlepool Creative Industries Strategy as a regeneration blueprint or Church Street.

The council has made a bid to the Coastal Communities Fund for £425,000 and if successful would provide business support to existing businesses to enable them to grow, a mentoring scheme and to develop ‘pop-up’ studio space near the CCAD and Art Gallery.

Labour councillor Jim Ainslie said: “This is an imaginative and exciting strategy and illustrates the quality of the officers we have.

“Anything that stimulates employment will always get my support.”

Committee members were asked to endorse the strategy. Approval of funding and developing the project will be subject to future reports.