CAMPAIGNERS are to write to council bosses asking for extra time to find a new use for Houghton’s historic Old Rectory.
Sunderland City Council is seeking a long-term tenant for the Grade II-listed building, which previously housed council offices.
A public meeting to discuss the plans, held at the town’s Kepier Hall on Saturday, was a lock-out with around 200 people in attendance.
The tenancy was advertised at Christmas and the deadline for expressions of interest is due to expire on February 16, but independent councillor Sheila Ellis said it was not long enough.
“In Newcastle, they are trying to sell off some of their buildings as well, but they are giving commercial people four months to bid and community groups six months,” she said.
“Six weeks is not long enough for people to get together and decide what they want to do.”
Young mum Claire Rushworth said she took her children into the park and did not want to see anything happen that would limit access.
“I am sure we would like those buildings to stay in public possession so we can use them for the good of the community,” she said.
Independent councillor Colin Wakefield said the city council supported many public buildings across Wearside and he would like to see it so in Houghton.
“I don’t know of any particular reason why we should have to raise funds to buy something that is ours,” he said.
But Alex Scullion, vice-chairman of the Hetton Town Trust, warned the meeting good intentions were not enough.
Whatever use was decided on had to be financially viable, he said: “What you have got to do from a business point of view is to make sure you can afford it and it is sustainable going forward into the future.”
It was agreed to write to the city council and request an extension to the deadline in order to establish a civic society for the town which would come up with uses for the building.
Members of the council’s ruling Labour group, including Cabinet Secretary Coun Mel Speding, agreed to support the move.