Hackney Mayor Jules Pipe has “washed his hands” of derelict mansion bequeathed to the community, claim campaigners

The derelict St Mary's Lodge

The derelict St Mary's Lodge - Credit: Archant

The Mayor of Hackney has been accused of “washing his hands” of a derelict mansion which was bequeathed for the benefit of the community.

A fire in the driveway of St Mary's Lodge

A fire in the driveway of St Mary's Lodge - Credit: Archant

St Mary’s Lodge in Lordship Road has stood empty for the past 12 years and in 2009 the Stoke Newington Conservation Area Advisory Committee (CAAC) branded inaction over the 13-room building a “disgrace and scandal”.

It demanded that the council compulsorily purchased the building if a planning application submitted in 2009 was not determined by January 2012.

But it remains untouched and many fear it will fall beyond restoration if more time lapses.

The lodge was sold by philanthropists Mr and Mrs Hyde to the council in 1959, well below the property’s market value on condition it was used for educational or charitable purposes.

The building was set to go for auction at £750,000 in 2002, but was withdrawn at the last minute and sold to trustees of the Torah Etz Chaim synagogue next door at a reduced price of £705,000 – on condition that it was used for education and community use.

It was then bought for £875,000 in 2012 by Keren Habinyen, a company operating on behalf of the local Vishnitz-sect Hasidic community

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At last week’s council meeting, Tony Harms, a prospective Liberal Democrat councillor candidate in May’s elections, asked mayor Cllr Jules Pipe if the council will now make a compulsory purchase order to acquire the building.

Mayor Pipe said any attempt to do so would fail while the owners can demonstrate they are actively preparing to submit a planning application, irrespective of how little progress they have made.

He added: “I’m in complete sympathy with residents about this building, but if successive owners are determined to drag their feet, there is little that the council can do legally to force them to develop the site.”

Mr Harms said: “Basically, the Mayor has washed his hands of this matter.

“Residents have to stand and watch as this historic house falls apart.

“It’s an eyesore, and a fire and health hazard because of the vermin,” he added.

In 2004, the lodge survived demolition and at that point Cllr Pipe promised that the council would do everything legally possible to protect the building.

But the decay continued, and the lodge was gutted by fire in 2005, used as a dumping ground for tyres in 2008 and in 2009 a complete section of wall – comprising Victorian bricks – was removed in broad daylight.

Last year, the front drive was used by builders to store and burn rubbish.

In 2009, the CAAC opposed owner Torah Etz Chaim’s planning application to build 13 flats there instead of a school.

The Gazette was unable to contact Keren Habinyan for a comment.