Background and history
The development of Park conservation area has been defined by the economic fortunes of wider Hartlepool. The land was bought in 1867 by WA Wooler who envisaged a planned country suburb with impressive dwellings. It soon grew rapidly around Ward Jackson Park (grade II registered park and garden).
Large, detached villas, such as Tunstall Court and Tunstall Manor were constructed in a rectilinear street pattern, laid out around the park. These villas of Victorian and Edwardian industrialists were built within substantial private grounds in a variety of architectural styles.
Following the First World War, Hartlepool declined economically. The large estates were gradually subdivided into smaller plots. Several experienced change from residential to public and institutional use. A school, sports club and local authority training centre found homes in the former houses. A significant intensification of development by the end of the 20th century saw a return to residential use.
Park remains a very desirable suburb of Hartlepool. Its spatial layout retains its concealed views, filtered by walls, hedges and matures trees. Long street vistas are tunnelled by overhanging trees. These contrast with the intermittent views into the private estates glimpsed through gateways, along driveways and over boundary walls.
Is it at risk?
Yes. Park conservation area has been on the Historic England Heritage at Risk Register since 2014.
This is due to increasing demand for further residential development that would split up the grounds of the original villa plots. Many of the large plots have already been subdivided for residential use. If this trend continues, the original character of the whole conservation area will increasingly be lost.
What's the current situation?
Planning Permission has recently been granted for a large development within the grounds of Meadowcroft. This is one of the last remaining Victorian villas to retain some semblance of its original plot size. Meadowcroft has all the features demanded by the wealthy Victorian industrialist who built it. It is set out like a small country estate.
The proposed residential development will block important views of the grounds from the principal rooms of the house. This would significantly damage the relationship between the house and its grounds. Approval of the development by Hartlepool Borough Council may well be the final 'nail in the coffin' for Park conservation area. The approval was given contrary to Council Officers' recommendations.
Planning Permission has also been granted for the demolition of Tunstall Court, one of the original large villas. It had been vacant for many years. Years of neglect and decay, worsened by repeated attacks of vandalism sealed its fate.
The removal of Park conservation area from the register can only be achieved if the essential elements of its character and appearance are respected and protected.