Lodge bids rejected

The Ward Jackson Park lodge for sale. Picture by FRANK REID
The Ward Jackson Park lodge for sale. Picture by FRANK REID

THE future of a historic lodge remains up in the air after three bids were rejected by a senior councillor for being too low.

Hartlepool Borough Council was planning to sell the former park keeper’s lodge, which stands at the corner of Ward Jackson Park, in Elwick Road, to raise much-needed cash.

The two-storey Grade II listed property, which dates back to 1883 and lies in the Park Conservation Area, has not been occupied for a number of years.

The council opened a tender for open offers and invited bids. But independent councillor Paul Thompson, portfolio folder for finance and corporate services, rejected three confidential offers at a recent meeting.

Coun Thompson has instead called for an ‘all options’ report to come back to him in January with further details about how the building could best be used.

Options include putting it back on the market or possibly using it as a community facility.

Coun Thompson said: “None of the bids were anywhere near what we would have expected for that building.

“I have asked for our officers to go away and put together an all options report rather than just selling it.

“Options could include a community asset transfer process or indeed re-marketing the building.”

Coun Thompson said options would have to be carefully considered as the building is based within a residential area, while he also said he was aware of concerns raised by the Hartlepool Civic Society about selling the building and wanted to explore their views in more detail.

Coun Thompson added: “What was on offer was nowhere near good enough.

“The low offers probably reflect the current climate and maybe it was slightly ambitious of the council to be marketing such a building in the current climate. But we have to try and plug the financial black hole facing the local authority.”

Ahead of the meeting, members of the Hartlepool Civic Society said they didn’t want a section of the park to be sold and described the plans as “dubious” and “flawed”.

The society fears the character of the lodge could be altered and claim no consideration has been given to the historic, cultural and economic importance of Ward Jackson Park as a whole.

Over the next four years, the council is looking to slash between £17m and £20m from its £90m revenue budget to balance the books due to cuts in public sector funding.