A deal to take over Hartlepool’s Middleton Grange Shopping Centre has been completed ahead of “ambitious” transformation plans.

Hartlepool Development Corporation (HDC) has successfully concluded negotiations with Mars Pension Trustees to buy the long lease for the centre – which is home to retailers including Primark and Boots.

Approval to proceed with the deal was previously granted at an HDC board meeting in November.

Current plans for the shopping centre include regenerated public spaces and a new frontage while also opening it up to a wider range of uses beyond retail.

HDC bosses add the agreement will support “ambitious regeneration proposals” and give them control over a “key asset” in the heart of the area.

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 spend time in – supporting jobs, boosting the economy and making our region an even better place to live.”

The move is seen as “vital to the overall masterplan for Hartlepool” which has been previously approved by the HDC.

This blueprint includes attracting 2,000 new jobs, building up to 1,300 new homes, restoring, reinvigorating and reshaping a sustainable and vibrant town centre and renewing the waterfront.

The shopping centre agreement will see Hartlepool Borough Council retain the freehold of the site, with the HDC Board appointing asset and property managers to oversee Middleton Grange on its behalf.

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Cllr Mike Young, leader of Hartlepool Borough Council and HDC board member, said the local authority “welcomes the news.”

He added: “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.’’