THE next phase of a multi-million pound Hartlepool Borough Council project to revitalise Hartlepools Church Street area and transform it into a hub for creative industries is getting under way.
Following the start of construction earlier this month to convert the former Post Office building in nearby Whitby Street into a new £3m creative business centre, work is set to begin on Church Street itself and the neighbouring Church Square.
This £3.4m next phase due to be completed by May 2018 - is funded by the Tees Valley Combined Authority, by National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and by the Council. The main contractor is local firm Seymour Civil Engineering.
The work will start on Monday 30 October, from which time Church Street will be closed to through traffic for the following 30 weeks, with a signposted diversion in place along Tower Street and Huckelhoven Way. However, vehicle and pedestrian access to the businesses and the railway station will be maintained.
Church Square will be given a major uplift. It will be pedestrianised and a large oval event space encircled by trees and raised seating will be created in front of Hartlepool Art Gallery (the Grade II-listed former Christ Church), providing an attractive area for various events.
There will be an area of lawn and trees between the event space and Church Street, a landscaped walkway along Upper Church Street leading into the event space and new road access to the neighbouring Cleveland College of Art and Design buildings from the top of Church Street.
A new Workers Memorial will be created at the front of the art gallery, featuring specially engraved stones.
In Church Street, the focus will be on enhancing the existing Conservation Area architecture and creating a more open, pedestrian-friendly area.
The existing trees which obscure the buildings will be removed and replaced with smaller ones and unnecessary street clutter such as bollards and signs will be taken away. Engraved stones will be set into the pavement outside key buildings, explaining their history.
A wider footpath along the south of the street will accommodate the larger numbers of people walking to and from the new Cleveland College of Art and Design campus at the bottom of the street.
Two-way traffic along Church Street will still be maintained and there will still be a number of parking bays, and the new layout will make it easier for sections of Church Street to be closed off for hosting future events while still maintaining good traffic flow via short diversions.
Councillor Kevin Cranney, Chair of the Councils Regeneration Services Committee, said: "These much-needed improvements will enhance and celebrate this historic quarter of Hartlepool, creating an attractive and revitalised environment for people to enjoy and in which businesses can flourish."
Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, Leader of the Council, added: "The Church Square improvements will fill the need for high quality public space in the centre of Hartlepool which can host an exciting range of events. This phase as a whole will help create a thriving route running from the town centre and the transport interchange through Church Square and Church Street down to what will be the redeveloped waterfront."
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: "Regenerating our town centres is a key part of my Plan for Growth. The investment from the Combined Authority that I lead is a really positive thing for local people and a fantastic example of how investment can transform our public spaces for the benefit of all.
"Our region is benefitting from investment in areas like town centres, transport, housing and skills, delivered through our devolved powers, which can help us unlock a new era of prosperity."
Ivor Crowther, Head of the HLF North-East, added: "National Lottery funding is transforming historic town centres across the North-East and were delighted to see the plans for Hartlepool getting off to a great start."
National Lottery investment of £1.2m will see Church Street restored and revived for the benefit of businesses, residents and visitors.