Hartlepool’s Conservative candidate Richard Royal has backed calls to regenerate the abandoned Longscar Centre in Seaton Carew, but has urged caution over proposals to demolish rather than renovate the venue.
Royal has called on owners Capanac Leisure to push forward with their previous plans for the building, which has become an eyesore and a target for arson and low-level crime in recent years. He has confirmed that he will be writing to the owners for an update on their plans and proposals, whilst urging them to take swift action.
Whilst supporting the principles of regeneration as laid out in the Seaton Carew Masterplan, Royal warned against the council’s ‘default position’ to demolish existing facilities that could be renovated at lower cost.
It was recently revealed that Hartlepool Borough Council was considering using money raised from the sale of land on Elizabeth Way and a Compulsory Purchase Act to force Capanac Leisure to sell the building, allowing the council to bulldoze it and rebuild the commercial units as part of its wider masterplan. Capanac had previously suggested they would seek to renovate the building, turning it into a business hub and sea-view restaurant.
Rather than demolishing and rebuilding the site with public money which keeps residents’ council tax way too high, Royal suggests that the council should support the owners to redevelop or renovate the site themselves, incorporating additions such as residential units to make the proposals financially viable.
“This building is located in a key beauty spot and has been abandoned to the elements, leaving it at risk of arson and other crime, so it is vital that something is done swiftly. But our first port-of-call should be to push the owners to develop the site themselves with their own money rather than just throwing taxpayers’ money at it.
“The council’s default position always seems to be to buy, bulldoze and rebuild, rather than considering how to renovate and adapt existing facilities. It shows a cavalier attitude to spending the public’s money which may help to explain the extortionately high council tax in this area.”
Council tax under Hartlepool‘s Labour council and backed by its Labour MP is the third highest in Britain, with average Band D prices at nearly £1,700 per year. The Conservative-led government has recently encouraged local authorities to freeze council tax in return for increased government funding, which together with pressure from local Conservative councillors has frozen the town's rate in recent years.