A decision to knock down an imposing Victorian-style glasshouse in a popular park has sparked outcry, with MPs and hundreds of residents calling on it to be saved.
On Wednesday, Tameside’s executive cabinet voted to demolish the conservatory in Stamford Park in Stalybridge after it was ruled too costly to repair and reopen it.
But angry residents have now launched a campaign to try and save the iconic structure and keep it in the Grade-Two listed park.
And Tameside MPs, Jonathan Reynolds and Angela Rayner have written a joint letter to council leader Brenda Warrington to oppose the plans.
They say it is an ‘iconic local landmark’ and should not be lost.
But Tameside council says it cannot leave the building to ‘rot further’, and in a climate of severe budget cuts for local authorities, tough decisions must be made.
In less than 24 hours, more than 690 people have signed a petition calling on the town hall to preserve the building as a ‘valuable asset’ to the borough’s heritage.
The conservatory was closed to the public four years ago over safety fears about its deteriorating state.
It is a replica of the glasshouse built in 1907 after being gifted to the park by John Nield and was completely rebuilt to the original Victorian design in the 1980s.
Bosses have now agreed it should be torn down and replaced with a ‘formal garden’ as the authority would have to spend at least £84,000 to restore it.
Matthew Clarke, who is leading the public campaign to save it, said that Mr Nield would be ‘shocked’ by its current state of disrepair.
“Local people deserve transparency and the chance to decide on the fate of such an iconic local building which is part of our heritage,” he said.
“Residents should be given the chance to work with the council to restore the building to its former glory bringing visitors to the area and preserving our heritage.”
Jonathan Reynolds MP, who represents Stalybridge is also backing the campaign and told the Local Democracy Reporting Service he is giving it his ‘full support’.
“Like many local families, we love to visit Stamford Park year-round, and it would be such a disappointment to see this lovely building flattened rather than restored,” he said.
“I’m sure that as a community we could come together to find a positive solution.”
In their joint letter, Ms Rayner and Mr Reynolds urge Coun Warrington to reconsider the cabinet’s decision.
“We understand that central cuts to the council budget mean that difficult decisions have to be made across all departments, but this is a valuable community asset that shouldn’t be lost,” they wrote.
“Can we look at ways to raise the funding required to make the necessary repairs to the greenhouse?
“We are confident that there would be high public interest in saving it.”
Demolishing the conservatory and replacing it with a new garden would cost around £50,904.
Opposition councillors have also slammed the decision, which was made at a cabinet meeting where council leader Brenda Warrington and chief executive Steven Pleasant were both absent.
Conservative Stalybridge South councillor Liam Billington said it was ‘really disappointing’.
“There has been little consultation with the public and I think that’s why you have seen a lot of anger and upset,” he said.
“Many people have fond memories as children visiting the greenhouse and want it to stay.
“I’m quite amazed that the council want a garden in place of the greenhouse when we had a beautiful garden opposite the duck pond which the council grassed over as part of the £4million lottery grant.”
He added that the ‘skint’ council had already spent large sums of money on other projects in Ashton-under-Lyne and Denton.
A Tameside council spokesperson said the new community garden would ‘breathe new life’ into an unused corner of the park.
“It will replace the 1980s conservatory, which has been closed for over four years after safety concerns were raised following a structural survey,” they said.
“We can’t leave the conservatory to rot further but neither is it economically viable to rebuild it – which could cost up to £500,000 as well as ongoing maintenance costs.
“While the conservatory used to be enjoyed by a small number of visitors, it was never among the park’s most popular attractions and was often vandalised.
“In the current financial climate of severe budget cuts, tough decisions have to be made and it is far preferable to use the limited funds available in maintaining the most popular and used features of the park such as the water fountains, aviary, café, toilets, bowling greens, games area and formal flower displays.”
They added that the planning department, the Samuel Oldham Trust and ward members had been consulted.
And the Heritage Lottery Fund, while they were ‘disappointed’ said they were ‘realistic about the pressures on local authority budgets and have accepted the proposals’.
The demolition is due to take place from September 2.
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