A PLAN to create a new business centre in a Grade II-listed Hartlepool building as part of a multi-million pound project could create 100 new jobs, it has been claimed.

A planning application has been made to transform the former General Post Office in Whitby Street to establish up to 31 new units for start-ups businesses specialising in creative industries.

The proposed redevelopment of the Grade-listed building forms part of Hartlepool Borough Council’s multi-million pound Innovation and Skills Quarter project.

Cleveland College of Art and Design (CCAD) has teamed up with the council to collaborate in the management, marketing and operation of the centre.

It follows a successful Local Growth Fund bid of £5.5m via the Tees Valley Local Enterprise Partnership and a £1.2m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and builds upon the success of the existing Hartlepool Enterprise Centre which hosts up to 50 companies and has supported over 200 new jobs in recent years.

Cllr Kevin Cranney, chairman of the council’s Regeneration Services Committee, said: “Our ambitious plans to revitalise the Church Street area have got off to a good start with building work progressing well on the new £11m Cleveland College of Art and Design.

“Bringing historic, empty buildings back into productive use is also a high priority for the Council and the former Grade II-listed General Post Office (GPO) presents an excellent opportunity to develop new business workspace for the creative industries sector.

“We want to ensure that more young people stay in Hartlepool once they’ve completed their studies, but to do this we’ve got to create the right environment and facilities to help them succeed.

“The proposed scheme will preserve the historic features of the GPO building whilst providing a new internal layout and upgraded information technology services to meet the needs of professional design businesses.”

Local colleges are working closely with the council on the project which aims to encourage students to take the step into business once they’ve completed their studies.

As well the 31 business units there will be meeting rooms and ancillary facilities including a communal social area. There will also be a two-storey extension to the north elevation of the building.

As part of the Church Street Innovation and Skills Quarter, highway and pedestrian areas will be improved as well as environmental enhancements. Consultation on proposals will commence in the coming weeks.