MIDDLESBROUGH Council will continue to work with businesses over the future of the Southlands Centre.

The approach was confirmed following a meeting between senior officers and entrepreneurs currently based at the centre.

The move followed a decision by the Council’s Executive Sub-Committee for Property to instruct officers to explore viable uses for the Southlands Centre site.

This was after it was decided to cease discussions with the only bidder to submit a proposal as they were unable to guarantee the centre’s continued use as a business and community venue.

At a meeting on Wednesday, May 24 meeting further discussions were held over the issues facing the Centre and the options open to the various parties.

Officers are continuing to explore possible uses for the centre to address the current budget deficit – including significant maintenance and repair costs – with a further report due to committee in September.

In the meantime it was agreed that the Council would continue to operate and promote Southlands as a business and community facility

Licensees currently operating from the building will be given the opportunity to put forward a proposal to continue to manage the facility as a business and community venue. Work to assist current occupiers with their transition from the centre has been put on hold during this period.

Any viable proposal will then be included as part of an options appraisal report to be considered by the Council’s Executive in September.

If such a business model is not deemed viable, businesses and community groups will be given a further six months to find premises elsewhere.

Middlesbrough Council Interim Chief Executive Tony Parkinson said: “We held a very constructive meeting with representatives of the businesses currently at the Southlands.

“It is important to note that no formal decision has been taken to close the Centre and we are continuing to seek viable options for its future in line with the decision made by Executive Members.

“Officers will work alongside existing licensees to assist in the development of a business proposal.”