A NOT-FOR-PROFIT trust set up to manage the interests of Clayton’s Mercer House must not allow it to become another Chaigley Manor, Hyndburn’s leader has warned.
At last week’s Cabinet meeting, a three-year draft business plan by community trust Mercer 1842 was approved by councillors on the condition that safeguards were in place to ensure control over the two century old Grade II listed townhouse returned to public hands if necessary.
The Community Development Trust proposes to manage and utilise the building, which has been under-used for many years, as a catalyst for community activities.
Its business plan includes three offices within Mercer House being let to agencies or organisations with an annual income of just under £30,000.
Councillor Peter Britcliffe told last Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting: "We have absolutely no concerns about this current board that has been set up, but boards change.
"The council invested very strongly in Chaigley Manor over the years but we found when the board was set up and we had concerns the council could do very little about it."
The trustees of Ribble Valley manor house Chaigley Manor, bought by the people of Accrington in the early 20th Century and sold at a £250,000 profit, have been repeatedly quizzed by Hyndburn Council over how they chose to invest the money.
Built in 1802 by Thomas Hargreaves, Mercer House sits in the grounds of Clayton’s Mercer Park and is where chemist John Mercer spent his later years.
It was previously known as Oakenshaw Cottage before taking on the name of its famous occupant.
A charitable trust was set up for the house during the First World War, establishing it for use as a public museum and art gallery.
Altham councillor Susan Haworth said: "When I was a child I used to stand on a bench in front of Mercer House. I don’t think the house has ever been marketed or managed the way it should have.
"The Friends of Mercer Park have led the way in showing how much the park is an asset for Clayton and now it’s the turn of Mercer House."