Pools ground talks back on

Russ Green
Russ Green

PLANS by Hartlepool United to buy their Victoria Park ground are back on the agenda.

Hartlepool Borough Council and the League One club have been at loggerheads over the issue in recent years. But both parties are back round the table talking about a possible sale.

They have teamed up to commission an independent economic study as part of ongoing negotiations.

Club owner Increased Oil Recovery (IOR) wants to buy the Clarence Road ground, which it leases from the council for around £18,000 a year, on a long-term deal.

But a series of behind-closed doors meetings in recent years came to nothing and the talks broke down last September when the council rejected what it labelled a “derisory” offer.

That figure, which was revealed by Pools chairman Ken Hodcroft at the club’s annual general meeting in December, was just £10,000 plus interest, giving a total of £50,000.

Council chiefs said that was less than a tenth of its value, but stressed that the door remained open if the club came back with a “realistic offer”.

As reported at the time, Mr Hodcroft also revealed the first offer for £300,000 was rejected several years ago.

But talks are now back underway and the council says it is still “minded” to sell the ground if the right deal can be struck.

Work on the economic impact study is expected to start shortly.

Council chiefs say it will help show the economic benefits that the football club brings to town, the impact it has on the community and the role of the club in promoting a positive image.

At the same time, Hartlepool Borough Council is also inviting developers to submit proposals for the wider development of the Mill House site.

Labour councillor Robbie Payne, cabinet member for finance and procurement, chairs the Hartlepool United Football Club sub-committee which was specifically set up to look at the issue.

Coun Payne said: “The council is still minded to sell Victoria Park to the football club but we have always said that we want to maximise the opportunity to breathe new life into the wider Mill House area for the benefit of the local community.

“It will be interesting to see what kind of proposals do come forward and the findings of the economic impact study will help both the council and the football club in the future decision-making process.”

Pools chief executive Russ Green said: “As the club is committing funds towards this, we see the commissioning of an independent study as a positive step forward in trying to progress the sale of Victoria Park to ensure the club remains a contributor to the continued success of the town.”

Developers have until the end of the year to put forward proposals and the economic impact study is expected to be completed early in the New Year.

Hartlepool Council has owned the ground since 1961 after the-then chairman Ernie Ord sold Victoria Park to the authority for £10,000 to avoid the club going bust.