‘Derisory’ land bids rejected

The site of the former Henry Smiths Schoo
The site of the former Henry Smiths Schoo

A FORMER school site will not be developed into a new housing estate any time soon after a councillor labelled two bids for the land as “derisory”.

Hartlepool Borough Council is looking to sell the former Henry Smith School site, in King Oswy Drive, for a new 135-house estate, including 45 affordable homes.

The 9.4 acre site was marketed earlier this year, but the two tenders received by the council fell short of the value of the land.

Officers recommended the confidential bids be rejected which independent councillor Paul Thompson agreed to at a meeting of his finance and corporate services portfolio.

Coun Thompson said: “None of the offers that came in were adequate, in fact they were derisory.

“They were a bit of an insult to the value of the land and on that basis I was not willing to sell.

“Instead, we are going to look at all the options again.”

Nearby residents spoke at the meeting to express their concerns about plans to develop the land.

Coun Thompson said: “We will do some further consultation with the neighbours in the immediate area.

“There were a few worries and people expressed concerns about it being developed at all.”

Officers are also in further talks with the Vela Group who secured a grant towards the affordable homes.

In 2010 the Vela Group secured funding from the Homes Communities Agency (HCA) worth £3.375m to build 45 new affordable homes and the King Oswy Drive land was identified as a suitable site.

The council had marketed the land for sale on the basis the developer would build the new affordable homes together with new private market properties on the remainder of the site.

The grant money stipulates that work needs to start by March 2013 so officers are now holding further discussions.

A report by Graham Frankland, assistant director (resources), said: “The King Oswy site will be retained until the housing market improves prior to re-marketing.

“Discussions have been held with the Vela Group and the council’s housing services manager to identify options to enable the development of affordable housing and capture the HCA grant.”

The eventual sale of the land would help the council achieve its £4.5m target of selling council-owned land over the next three years.

The school was closed and demolished in 2003 and the council-owned site has been empty ever since.