Tunstall Court tug of love

Councillor Ray Wells at Tunstall Court. Picture by FRANK REID
Councillor Ray Wells at Tunstall Court. Picture by FRANK REID

AN eyesore building that has become a magnet for arsonists and vandals could make it onto a national league of shame highlighting a shocking legacy of neglect and mistreatment.

Tunstall Court, in the West Park area of Hartlepool, has been nominated for the Victorian Society’s Top 10 Endangered Buildings 2013.

The list highlights the best and most at risk buildings in England and Wales, with historians and local campaigners suggesting endangered structures in their area.

Society bosses say structures being included on the list has in the past led to “encouraging” or “embarrassing” people into doing work to save such buildings.

But one local councillor says he would rather see Tunstall Court razed to the ground.

Tunstall Court is one of 75 buildings nominated, and has received seven nominations, which Victorian Society chiefs is quite a high number.

Victorian Society director Chris Costelloe said: “We don’t decide the top 10 on nominations, it’s on how important a building is, how at risk it is and what chance there is that we can change the situation by putting it in the top 10.

“We have in the past encouraged, or embarrassed people, into doing work to save buildings or councils to take enforcement action.

“Tunstall Court is in a very wearing state, there have been several proposals for redevelopment for the building and gardens and a few for making massive changes to the building itself and keeping parts of it.

“But we take the view that that would be damaging to it, it would completely change the feeling of the building.”

But Conservative Rural West ward councillor Ray Wells said: “The Victorian Society, which are based in London, are apparently living in a parallel universe to my residents.

“It’s fine to be an advocate of historic buildings which deserve to be kept, but in my opinion this is not one of them.

“It wasn’t a particularly nice building when it was built and certainly in the years it has been left to go to rack and ruin, some of which was in Hartlepool Borough Council ownership, it’s now deteriorated to be nothing more than an eyesore and a death trap.

“The building has been blighting the lives of many of my residents for the last 10 years and in my opinion the sooner it is razed to the ground the better.

“While I appreciate there are many other worthwhile historic buildings throughout the town and the country, it’s my opinion that Tunstall Court is not one of them.

“This site is a key site in a well-established upmarket area of the town and needs to be developed sympathetically to its surroundings.”

The list will be announced in October.

Tunstall Court is owned by Ruttle North East.

The firm has planning permission to transform the 5.4 acre site into housing.

Work on the 1899-built Grade II-listed building – which was put on the market with a whopping £4m price tag last year – is yet to start and Ruttle has refused to rule out demolishing the site, although they say that is not on their radar at the moment.