RESIDENTS, councillors and supporters of Hartlepool United were last night urged to back the development of the Mill House area of town.

At a meeting of the Mill House Area Action Group at Victoria Park, the potential to develop "world class" sporting facilities were put on show.

The plans include a new leisure centre, housing, student accommodation and a hotel as well as a new 3,000 seater stand at Victoria Park.

Five different development options have been drawn up, with computer generated images of the ideas on show last night from preferred developers Gus Robinson Ltd.

Pools pay £18,000 a year in rent to the council and part of the masterplan includes ownership of Victoria Park being handed to the club.

The club's chief executive Russ Green: "It's not just about the football club owning the ground, it is about the future development of the town. The club is part of the community and has progressed on that front immensely over recent years.

"We have to make the club survive and prosper and there's more to the club than Saturday afternoons and we work intensely off the field in the community.

"IOR have invested millions into the town over the years and it wasn't for them this club wouldn't be here today. They want to expand. There's no hidden agenda. An independent survey revealed this club is worth £5.7m to the town overall."

Gus Robinson representatives and they, as well as council officials were at last night's meeting, attended by in excess of 200 people and two councillors. The development has the support of the Further Education College and Cameron's Brewery.

Council members have requested more information on the plans before voting on the proposal.