‘We can turn lodge into an attraction’

File pic - Londesborough Lodge, in The Crescent. 093357s      'pic Andrew Higgins 14/08/09     'in News
File pic - Londesborough Lodge, in The Crescent. 093357s 'pic Andrew Higgins 14/08/09 'in News

A spiritual charity is seeking enlightenment as to why an historic Victorian building is lying vacant despite an offer to invest in its major renovation.

Despite gaining the backing of Scarborough MP Robert Goodwill, who branded their plans “laudable,” along with several “enlightened” councillors, the building still lies derelict.

Tibetan Buddhist charity Kagyu Samye Dzong Scarborough says it can transform the building into a centre that will attract visitors from throughout the county and the world.

The charity nationally has already re-developed old, ornate buildings in other parts of the country to major effect.

It is looking to relocate from its current base in St Mary’s Walk to the Grade II listed Victorian villa, Londesborough Lodge, in The Crescent.

The lodge has been on the market for three years now, with a guide price of £500,000.

However, the building needs a small fortune spent on it to restore it to past glory, with the Scarborough News understanding that around £150,000 alone would have to spent on removing asbestos.

The charity insist that they are “ready to run” with their bid. They have raised £100,000 in just eight weeks, and currently have private investors queuing up to bankroll their vision.

However, despite receiving high-level backing, the building still remains empty – as Ani Tselha pleads for action.

“The council’s policy is to get the right price for the building and for it to help better the community – which is what this will do,’ said Buddhist Ani.

“I would be heartbroken to see the building still empty twelve months down the line, with this still passing through the council and nothing being done to get somebody in there.”

Scarborough Council is selling the property through informal tender, and it’s understood that the Buddhist charity are not the only group looking at taking it over.

If they are successful though, they plan on spending hundreds of thousands of pounds renovating the crumbling landmark to create an holistic oasis in the centre of Scarborough.

Ani Tselha envisions creating a modern “community centre” in the heart of the town, that would, in her words, act as a “centre for well being” for Scarborians.

And she also hopes that the centre could also help boost tourism in the town.

According to Ani, the The Kagyu Samyé Ling Monastery and Tibetan Centre in Dumfries and Galloway is the tenth biggest tourist attraction in Scotland.

She added: “There would be nothing else like it in the region, and nothing really like it outside of London.

“There are Buddhist centres all over the country, but people will travel all over the world for exceptional teachers, and we will have these here.

“It will draw people in from all over the world and this would really put Scarborough on the map and it will bring in investment to the town.”

The building has been on the market for the past three years - and there’s no signs to indicate that the building is close to being sold.

They have managed to secure the initial funding needed to begin work on the project and Ani Tselha from the charity said that her biggest fear is that the historic building will just go to ruin. “All we want to do is provide help where help is needed’ she said.

“I live in Scarborough and know the problems here, and it’s not just drugs - it can be things such as an elderly widow who is lonely and we want to use the centre as a place for these people to visit.

“I also see the young people around the back, sniffing glue and drinking, and they want something to do and guidance, and we can help offer them that.”

She said that they plan on working alongside various other community groups in the area, such as the Cambridge Centre, St Catherine’s Hospice and Hope, to help complement their work and to aid those in need.

The group has a track record of renovating ‘abandoned’ buildings.

Its property in London was purchased for £1.8 million, and after a complete renovation, is now worth in the region of £20 million.

Councillors from Scarborough have visited these sites to inspect them, and to speak to other councillors about the charity.

Scarborough Borough Council Head of Finance and Asset Management, Nick Edwards, said:

“The potential sale of Londesborough Lodge is already attracting a lot of interest, as one would expect with this substantial period property in the heart of Scarborough’s Cultural Quarter.

“It’s only right and proper that to ensure the best outcome for the council taxpayer we advertise the sale of the site through the proper channels, with all subsequent offers to be considered by elected council members

“We anticipate that through our agents, CPH Property Services, we will be in a position to put the building on the market this autumn, when we’ll be asking for formal expressions of interest.”