CAMPAIGNERS trying to save Wymering Manor could take over the Tudor landmark after plans to sell it were abandoned.
Portsmouth City Council has given those interested in preserving the city’s oldest house six months to decide whether they want to form a trust to look after the property.
Groups including the Friends of Old Wymering and the Portsmouth Society are planning to meet in the new year to discuss options for renovating the famous house.
They are being supported by Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt, who has helped draw up a business plan for how the building could be converted into a community centre, with its ground floor used for events and room hire. Under the plans, its upper floors would become a boutique hotel.
The manor, in Old Wymering Road, was built in 1581 and was last used in 2006 when it was a youth hostel.
It has repeatedly been offered for sale by the council, but failed to reach its minimum price.
Both English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund have said they believe the building’s refurbishment should be a priority for the city.
The chairwoman of the Friends of Old Wymering, Linda Buckland, said: ‘It is a wonderful old building with so much to offer and it is of huge value to local people.
‘It is an important building and we would like to raise its profile and make sure people know that it’s there.
‘If possible I would personally like to see the manor used as a community venue – something that the rest of the public can use as well.’
Representatives from the Heritage Lottery Fund have told Ms Mordaunt that plans she has developed with local campaigners would be something they could look to fund.
She said: ‘The business plan was put together to look at how we can renovate the manor.
‘Even sitting empty it is costing us a huge amount every year just to cover security costs, so I’m extremely pleased the council has come around to our way of thinking.
‘Now we have six months to put together a trust which can hopefully take over the running of the house.’
The leader of the council, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said in retrospect it would have been better to accept an earlier offer to sell the house to become a private home.
He said: ‘I was convinced to hold out in favour of an offer from a group who wanted to turn it into a hotel, but that fell through so we are now looking at other options.
‘I have said to campaigners come back in six months and we’ll see if we can set up an arrangement like the one we have to run the Hilsea Lido.’