Public sector takes over at Middleton Grange
Hartlepool Development Corporation has completed a deal with Mars Pension Trustees to take control of the shopping centre.
The Development Corporation has now concluded negotiations to buy the long lease for the facility, home to retailers including Primark and Boots.
HDC said that the agreement will support ambitious regeneration proposals for Hartlepool town centre and give control over a key asset in the heart of the Development Corporation zone.
Approval to proceed with the deal was granted at a Development Corporation board meeting in December.
Current plans include regenerated public spaces and new frontage while opening it up to a wider range of uses beyond retail, a direction most shopping centre owners are now pursuing as demand for floorspace shrinks.
At the larger end of the market, Newcastle’s Eldon Square is lined up for a major leisure-led overhaul, while Evolve Estates is poised to take over from St Modwen as owner of Billingham town centre, where Stockton-on-Tees Council is looking to put Levelling Up funding to work.
The Hartlepool agreement will see the council retain the freehold of the site, with the HDC board appointing asset and property managers to oversee Middleton Grange on its behalf.
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, chair of the HDC board, said: “Middleton Grange is a hugely important part of our plans to transform Hartlepool town centre and the completion of this agreement is a vital step in this process.
“We can now get on with the job of transforming the centre to make it a thriving location for the brilliant local businesses already based there, while attracting new stores to the town.
“This deal also unlocks major redevelopment opportunities that can deliver a reinvigorated town centre that people want to spent time in – supporting jobs, boosting the economy and making our region an even better place to live.”
HDC was set up by Houchen in summer 2023, along similar lines to development corporations focused on South Tees and Middlesbrough. It is focused on a patch including Oakesway Business Park, Queens Meadow Business Park, along with retail and leisure assets including Mill House Leisure Centre and Middleton Grange Shopping Centre, and public realm and civic buildings.
The corporations act as the local planning authority for their respective areas.
Cllr Mike Young, leader of Hartlepool Borough Council and a member of the Hartlepool Development Corporation Board, said: ‘‘Hartlepool Borough Council acknowledges the leasehold purchase of Middleton Grange Shopping Centre by the Hartlepool Development Corporation and welcomes the news that it is now under public ownership.
“As a Council, we are looking forward to working collaboratively with the HDC to progress the plans to transform the shopping centre alongside our own Hartlepool Town Deal and Production Village regeneration projects. With work starting on Highlight, the Wesley Chapel and Hartlepool Train Station this year and hopefully soon now on the shopping centre, we are laying the foundations for a brighter future for Hartlepool.’’