TAMESIDE Council is pressing ahead with plans to demolish the conservatory at Stamford Park after a plea for more time was rejected.
Stalybridge South councillor Doreen Dickinson tabled a motion at the meeting of the authority on Tuesday asking for the action to be postponed for a year.
However after a heated exchange between her and Labour councillors, notably Oliver Ryan, it was voted against.
As a result, it is planned demolition work will start on August 1.
The Correspondent has featured a petition, which has been signed by more than 4,000 people, and protests against the plans – which was signed by Labour councillors Jan Jackson and Jim Fitzpatrick – in the past.
However, Tameside Council’s executive leader Brenda Warrington insisted they had not received any such petition, nor evidence of an opposition group.
She did say at the meeting at Tony Downes House in Droylsden that she would meet with any formally constituted group to discuss their points.
However, this latest move effectively gives people just over a week before workmen move in.
Cllr Ryan, who put forward an amendment shortly before the meeting, took aim at the Conservative government for more than £200 million worth of cuts made to Tameside’s funding over the past few years – claiming if they had the money, they would love to keep the conservatory.
He also said the building, which was replaced in the 1980s after first being erected in 1907, is not historic.
And claims about it housing rare species were also shot down as Cllr Ryan said: “Many of them are available in garden centres.”
The Audenshaw representative also accused the Conservative group of, ‘playing fast and loose with their position and it’s grotesque,’ and, ‘moving deckchairs on the Titanic.’
“The conservatory is of no historic value,” he said. “It’s unsafe and dangerous to the public.
“We must recognise in times of severe austerity we cannot continue to afford and spend between £90,000 and £250,000 to repair it, then pay £100,000 a year in ongoing costs.
“Stalybridge North Councillors, in whose Ward Stamford Park is located, were fully informed and involved in proposals.
“Our focus must be on providing vital services for the most vulnerable residents and for residents in general in Tameside.”
Several protestors were in attendance at the meeting, with some complaining that they were not allowed to speak.
Cllr Philip Fitzpatrick added incendiary comments including, ‘A good wind will blow it down.’
He added: “We’ve got to put our children first. It’s full of glass and God forbid one of them gets hurt.”
That is despite the conservatory, which has been closed for ‘repairs’ for four years being fenced off and council officials admitting much of the structure is polycarbonate.
The decision is a huge blow to those who want to save the conservatory.
Matthew Clarke, founder of the Save The Stamford Park Greenhouse Facebook page and Friends of John Nield Conservatory, wants the Friends’ group to be given the chance to save the iconic glasshouse.
“We are not asking for one penny from Tameside Council just the opportunity to take over the conservatory and restore it,” explained Matthew, 40, who lives on Ridge Hill Lane and works in IT for the Co-op.
“We don’t want Tameside Council to do anything other than give us the keys and we will restore it to its former glory.
“We will sign an agreement for five years and, if it is not sustainable after that period, they can take it back. All we are asking is a chance to have a go.”
Matthew added the Friends, who have formed an eight strong committee from its 2,000 members, have already begin to formulate a business plan and already has a number of potential funding streams lined up.
There are also a number of potential uses, one being the creation of a butterfly house with Chester Zoo prepared to advise. It has also been suggested as a wedding and events venue and other community uses with an eco-twist.
Cllr Dickinson hit out at the speed of the decision, which was initially made by Tameside Council’s executive cabinet and claimed councillors were not fully consulted.
She said: “I would like this council to note that prior to the decision being made only the Stalybridge North Councillors were consulted regarding the proposals.
“Given the conservatory has already been fenced off for four years, we strongly believe a further six months will make no difference to this council.
“Therefore, as I am very proud that the people of Tameside have come together to fight this decision, we propose that the scheduled demolition be postponed until March 2020 in order to allow the Save Stamford Park Greenhouse Group to apply for funding and explore options to keep the building.
“What I was asking for was time for a group to get constituted because it’s been such short notice. It’s time to let them get together. If it comes down, it comes down – if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t.”
However, Cllr Warrington continued with her line that the council had not heard of any opposition – even though people were facing her.
She said: “We’ve not been made aware of any complaints. The council has not received a petition. I’ve been told that one exists but we haven’t received one.
“I’ve been told about a group that consists of more than 2,000 but that has not been evidenced.
“That park is the jewel in the crown as far as parks go in Tameside. We want it to be the best it can be but while we’ve got a derelict structure, I think it spoils it.
“We want that particular area to be brought back into use. The structure in its current state will not remain standing.”
Much has been made about a £4 million National Lottery Heritage Fund grant that was given to Stamford Park 10 years ago.
However, Cllr David Sweeton, who was involved in getting the funding, said the greenhouse was not part of it.
He said: “It’s absolutely true the Heritage Lottery Fund was very specific. When it did an audit of what was contained in that park.
“It’s a park for today’s society and it was very specific that the conservatory had no heritage interest to them and they would not allow us as an authority to spend any of the £4 million on it.
“That’s where we are, whether I like it or whether I don’t. To ask us to spend money to refurbish something that has so much limited heritage, I cannot allow that.”