FOUR companies have shown an interest in developing the site of a derelict retail unit that has stood empty for years.
Hartlepool Borough Council is considering buying Jacksons Landing, on Hartlepool Marina, and then selling the land on for redevelopment.
Cabinet committee members met yesterday to see what interest there has been from developers in the council plans.
But senior officers say that while there has been interest from four companies, firm proposals wont be submitted until later this week.
Dave Stubbs, the council’s director of regeneration and neighbourhoods, said that if the sale goes through then the plan is to develop two thirds of the site for housing and the rest for commercial use.
Mr Stubbs also revealed that the board of owners Schroders is due to meet on Thursday to consider a reduced offer from the council in a final bid to get the agreed sale price down further.
The rumoured sale figure is around the £2m mark – but officers say it would be “inappropriate” to reveal how much they plan to pay at this stage.
Earlier this year, officers entered into an exclusivity agreement with Schroders to buy the building, which has stood empty since July 2004.
A price was agreed and a ‘lock-out’ agreement set to give the council time to carry out a feasibility study.
That agreement ended last week and other organisations can now put bids in.
But Mr Stubbs said he is confident the council is in pole position to buy the site, which would give it control over how it is developed.
He added: “We had a lock-out agreement until Friday and four companies are very interested.
“The problem we have is that these companies wont be in a position to submit formal bids to us until later this week.”
Labour councillor Peter Jackson asked if the ‘lock-out’ could be extended, but he was told it had already been extended four times.
If the plans from developers do not result in a profit, or if there is a cost to the council, then Mr Stubbs said cabinet and full council would need to review their position.
If the revised bid is rejected on Thursday then the original agreed price still stands.
Mayor Stuart Drummond said the plan to buy the site and redevelop it was still “very active”.
The owners do not currently pay any business rates because the building - which is likely to he demolished - has been stripped out and is currently uninhabitable.
The council has four options; do not buy it, buy it and sell it immediately, buy it and sit on it until the market picks up or buy it and develop two thirds of the site for housing and see how the market develops before developing the final third.
A further update will go to cabinet in a fortnight and Mr Stubbs said the four companies were keen to work with the council.
Earlier this year, councillors gave their backing to buy the building – which was valued at £10m before the credit crunch – at a full council meeting.