A COUPLE offered to bring a historic hall back to life as a community centre with a cafe, learning room and fishing facilities, funding the project themselves – but the council rejected their proposal.

Renovating Rock Hall in Moses Gate Country Park would have cost around £85,000, according to Harwood-based company Direct Civils Ltd.

There was also interest from a local angling group which was keen to use the building and planned to apply for grants to restock the fishing ponds nearby.

But around one month after submitting the proposal in April 2019, the civil engineering company was told that its bid had been rejected by the council.

Since then, the council has renewed its commitment to restore the derelict Grade-II listed property, which was built in 1807 for the paper-making Crompton family, but leaders said they still need external funding.

Direct Civils director Naomi Graham, who grew up in Farnworth, said she does not understand why the local authority rejected her fully-costed bid last year.

She said: “They were saying that they don’t have the funds to do it, so I don’t see why they didn’t bite our hands off.

“They told us, go have a look around the building. They only had one day I think where they told people to have a look.

“There were a few people who turned up, so they must have had more than our offer. We saw quite a few people that day.

“The impression I got was that it’s not about what money you’re willing to pay, they wanted to get it up and running again.

“So we aimed it towards the community side of things. I thought it was quite a good proposal.

“We’d have funded it from the company and would have made it more of a family thing as we have the right contacts.

“We didn’t offer much in terms of rent as we’d have to see some profit coming back – otherwise it wouldn’t make any sense. But we wanted it to be a community project.”

The council confirmed that estate agents Miller Metcalfe, which first advertised the “unique leasing opportunity” on the gates of Rock Hall last year with a sign still on site, received six formal expressions of interest.

A council spokesman said: “There were other submissions at the time that provided better value to the council.

“The council is still marketing these premises and continues to invite suitable expressions of interest.”