PLANS to turn a park lodge back into a home have been agreed by councillors who have also confirmed the building cannot be sold.
Hartlepool Borough Council has been granted permission from the authority’s planning committee to the change of use and other works for the Grade-II listed former park keeper’s lodge at Ward Jackson Park.
Officers are now working on plans to rent out the lodge, which will remain under council ownership.
It was originally intended to get the planning permission to make it easier to sell the building on and help cut the authority’s budget deficit.
While it has been agreed to change the use back, officers have confirmed the building can’t be sold due to restrictions in place for the park and the lodge - to the delight of campaigning residents.
Ahead of the planning committee, more than 450 people had objected to the council, saying the park was gifted to the people of the town in memory of town industrialist Ralph Ward Jackson and road safety worries over two new access points.
The agreed alterations include a new entry and exit to the lodge in Elwick Road along with fencing to separate the lodge from the rest of the park.
Chris Pipe, the council’s planning services manager, said: “It is no longer the intention of the council to sell this building.”
Officers said the focus was now on finding a suitable use for the building and to find a tenant for the “long-term”.
The suggestion of a community asset transfer was raised, but officers said that wasn’t possible due to the amount of alterations that would be needed to ensure the building complies with the Disability Discrimination Act.
Putting Hartlepool First councillor Geoff Lilley said: “I have no objection to it going back to residential use.
“The only concern I have is vehicle access. The proposal is probably as good as it can be, given the circumstances.”
Conservative group leader Ray Martin-Wells, said the high number of objections was mainly down to fears the building was going to be sold.
He added: “We have had this property virtually derelict for going on a decade. It is going to turn into an eyesore and it is important that the estates team is given a free hand to deal with it.”
Independent councillor Keith Fisher said he was pleased it wasn’t going to be sold and suggested a council employee could rent the house, like the former park keepers used to.
A vote was then taken and the plans agreed by 11 votes to two.
Fran Johnson, vice chairman of the Friends of Ward Jackson Park, said afterwards: “We are happy that it has gone forward with so many statements confirming that the building cannot be sold.
“I would support and encourage as many people as possible to work with us about the future use of the building.
“We can all do something about this.”