COUNCIL bosses say there is no truth in rumours there is a long-standing covenant preventing them from selling a historic lodge.
Hartlepool Borough Council announced earlier this week it is looking 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 when the park was created and lies in the Park Conservation Area, has not been occupied for a number of years.
But the plans had been criticised by Mail readers on our website who said the building, inside the park, was covered by a deed of covenant and left to the people of Hartlepool.
Website reader, Owen Robinson, said: “How can they sell it when it belongs to the town and is covered by a deed of covenant?
“It was paid for by public money in 1883 to commemorate one of Hartlepool’s greatest entrepreneurs, Ralph Ward Jackson.
“When was the covenant changed?”
Another website reader, Riz McGuile, said: “Can I ask why, as this lodge was gifted to the town, shouldn’t its future be up to the townsfolk and not the council.
“I am sure there are historic groups who could make good use of this fantastic building?
“What about the legality with regards the deeds.”
A council spokesman said: “We refute any suggestion that the council does not have the legal right to sell Ward Jackson Park lodge.
“We carried out all of the necessary checks, including carefully checking the deeds of the property before putting it on the market.
“Selling it presents an opportunity to preserve a desirable listed building as well as generating revenue which will help to protect frontline services.”
The sale has been backed by ward councillor and Conservative group leader Ray Wells, who represents the Rural West ward.
Coun Wells said: “I have looked into this matter previously when there was a proposal to use it as accommodation for a disabled child and I was assured that there was not a covenant in place.
“I didn’t believe then, and I don’t believe now, that the building was suitable for a care home, and indeed it was my suggestion that the building is put on the market for sale.
“It can only be a good thing to bring a disused property back into use while generating much-needed income for the local authority.
“It is a win-win situation as it will bring the building back into use and we will end up with a guardian of the park, in the sense that whoever moves in will no doubt notify the authorities if they see anything suspicious.”
To make it more appealing to potential buyers, the council has included an extra piece of land in the sale, previously used as a site compound, to extend the boundary of the existing property.
Over the next four years, the council is looking to slash between £17m and £20m from its £90m revenue budget in order to balance the books due to cuts in public sector funding.
Officers say the sale of the park keeper’s lodge will help raise revenue.