CULTURAL and historical facilities across East Middlesbrough and East Cleveland have been described as poor by the man charged with running them.

Peter Lane, assistant director of leisure at Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, made the comment in a report on the state of tourism and culture in the district.

But he added that a major improvement programme, including the revitalisation of the historic Kirkleatham Village, were in the pipeline.

Mr Lane's discussion document outlines the problems of culture and tourism in the Redcar and Cleveland area ahead of a major Government-funded Tees Valley-wide tourism strategy. That strategy, which will examine the area from Darlington to the Cleveland coast, is due to be completed before Easter.

In his report, due to be discussed by councillors next month, Mr Lane said: "A core issue of our cultural strategy is the poor quality of many of the existing facilities."

He went on to explain that consultants working on the Tees Valley Cultural and Tourism Strategy had already identified development of industrial heritage across the district and accommodation facilities in around the historic Kirkleatham village as issues of concern.

He said: "We've picked up from visitor surveys that accommodation is a problem and there is the recognition by consultants that some of our unique selling point lies in industrial heritage. The site of the old Eston iron ore mine is an example of that."

Ann Higgins, chairman of the Eston Residents' Association, has been lobbying the council for years to provide a commemorative square in memory of the iron ore mine, once the biggest mine in Europe, which opened in 1850 and directly led to the creation of modern Teesside.

She said: "At one time we even had drawings and plans of what we wanted to do but the council ending up dropping us like a hot potato. I think our industrial heritage could be a major selling point for Eston and the whole district."

Council leader Dave Walsh agreed that the area's cultural legacy and tourism should be developed further and pointed to the plans for Kirkleatham, where it has been suggested the museum be sold to a hotel chain and proceeds go to other developments.

Last year there were 1,737,000 visitors to East Cleveland generating £48m for the district. A total of 42,400 visitors attended Kirkleatham Museum and 75,000 visitors enjoyed Saltburn's cliff lift.