An auction to buy the former Jacksons Landing shopping centre in Hartlepool has been posted online before being taken down again.
A company is currently underway with the demolition of the former Hartlepool shopping centre, which has stood empty for 12 years.
But the steel-framed structure was up for auction on online bidding site ebay before a message appeared to say it had been taken down again because of an error.
Bosses at Hartlepool Borough Council say that by allowing the company carrying out the demolition work to sell off the structure, the cost of completing the demolition was reduced by “two thirds”.
But opposition councillors have hit out, saying they were not told that the authority had agreed to allow a private firm to sell the material or that this would reduce the cost of demolition.
Councillor Kevin Cranney, deputy leader of Hartlepool Council and chair of the authority’s Regeneration Services Committee, said: “It is common industry practice for demolition companies to recycle materials when demolishing buildings and structures.
“Recycling materials is not only cost effective but it is environmentally friendly.
“The cost of demolition was kept at a minimum as we knew that the steel from the building would be recycled and sold, reducing the cost of demolition by two thirds of what the council would normally pay to clear a similar sized site.”
Jacksons Landing was purchased by Hartlepool Borough Council in 2013 via an interest-free loan.
Newcastle-based architects GT3 were recently appointed to lead an exercise aimed at creating a mixed use development on the site and initial designs will be the subject of a consultation which will begin later this year.
John Tennant, UKIP group leader on the council, said: “At no point was it made clear that the demolition price was “reduced” in order that the steel would be recycled and sold.
“I am shocked that the council have effectively paid a private contractor to sell the steel at Jackson’s Landing, a building the council borrowed money to purchase for £1.5million.
“The council have effectively devalued the site in the process and at great expense of the Hartlepool taxpayer.
“I and many councillors who opposed this at full council have yet to see what the plans actually are for the site and judging by their recent decisions I am not confident that whatever plan they have will work.”
Constant maintenance has been required to keep the existing building safe and secure against vandalism since it was closed.
Trespassers have also been getting onto the roof and damaging roof lights.
The building has had to be repaired and secured 44 times over the last three years which has cost the council more than £15,000.
Planning chiefs say the financial burden would increase without the decision to demolish.
The decision proved controversial with some councillors who say demolition is a waste of public money when there is no firm plan for what will replace it.
Hundreds of people also signed an online petition to try to persuade the council not to knock it down.
The auction to buy the structure was originally set to end on November 12.