Safety fears halt plans to turn Hartlepool park lodge into private home

The Ward Jackson Park lodge
The Ward Jackson Park lodge

PLANS to turn a park lodge into a private home have been put on hold amid fears about how safe it is.

Hartlepool Borough Council is seeking permission for a change of use and other works for the Grade-II listed former park keeper’s lodge at Ward Jackson Park.

The council sought the permission to make it easier to sell and cut the authority’s deficit.

But park supporters have forced the council to admit it cannot sell the lodge due to restrictions in place for the park and the lodge.

The bid saw more than 450 people object 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.

A new entry and exit to the lodge is proposed on Elwick Road along with fencing to separate the lodge from the rest of the park.

Hartlepool council’s planning committee met to discuss the proposal on Wednesday but it deferred making a decision so councillors could go on a site visit.

Fran Johnson, vice chairman of the Friends of Ward Jackson Park, who spoke at the meeting, said: “It has already been acknowledged by the council that this particular stretch of road poses a variety of hazards and only recently they have installed a flashing speed sign to the west of the proposed access point to warn of the dangers of that section of road. The group showed the committee photos showing how many schoolchildren and families walk through the park up to four times a day.

The council’s traffic and transportation team raised no objections to the proposed access. But Councillor Geoff Lilley said: “I think anybody who knows that road will think it is an issue.”

And Coun Ray Martin-Wells said: “As ward councillor I know the area gets busy and support deferring it to look at alternative access or come kind of traffic calming for the road.”

The site meeting will take place at 9am on Wednesday, November 20.

Mrs Johnson added: “We recognise, and would be delighted to work towards ensuring that this building is conserved as a heritage asset and has a sustainable and viable use, either as a dwelling, for rental purposes or some other suitable function.

“However, the potential risk to pedestrians and other road users and the loss of the land used to maintain the park lead us to object to this application.”

A council spokesman said: “Having taken further legal advice, the council has accepted that the lodge forms part of the trust agreement covering Ward Jackson Park and therefore cannot be sold.

“However it is important that the building does not remain empty and we are seeking planning permission for a change of use for residential purposes to enable the lodge to be brought back into use and leased to generate income towards the ongoing running costs of the park.”