Councillors row over half a million pound roof repair plan at Stalybridge Civic Hall

LABOUR and Tory councillors have become embroiled in a row over plans to spend more than half a million pounds repairing the roof of Stalybridge’s old market hall.

As part of the Stalybridge Town Centre Challenge proposals, chiefs are planning to invest £550,000 on roof repairs at the Civic Hall on Trinity Street.

Council chiefs are also investigating whether the building could be transformed into a food destination like Altrincham Market or Manchester’s Mackie Mayor.

But the announcement led to a quarrel at full council as Conservative members questioned why the building had been allowed to deteriorate into such a state that it needed so much cash to fix it.

Stalybridge South Cllr Clive Patrick said: “Is this not just another case of this council allowing its properties to suffer from wilful neglect?

“Is it not just the case, like the Stalybridge town hall, like Hyde library, like more recently the Stamford Park conservatory, of this council neglecting its assets until it is too late?

“I believe this council has a duty to the residents and taxpayers to look after its assets.”


Cllr Clive Patrick (centre) addressing his concerns at full council 

But cabinet member for finance, Cllr Oliver Ryan replied that they ‘can’t seem to do right for wrong here’.

“We have a report here that says we are going to do things like fix the roof, we have other quite prestigious buildings in Tameside that we do look after throughout the year and we have programmes to bring back into use,” he said.

“You can’t attack us for that and then on the hand attack us for not doing it in the same breath.

“We’re in a situation now where we want to spend this money. Stalybridge councillors should welcome that instead of nitpicking about years gone by.

“I think we’ve done our best for Stalybridge and we are now investing more than ever in the town centre and you should be proud of that.”

Following a bid submitted in December bosses have successfully obtained a grant from the High Street Heritage Action Zone funding initiative launched by Historic England.

They have been offered £1.275 million from the fund to support the development of the town.

However this is conditional on the council matching the grant funding with the same amount, taking the total investment to more than £2.5m.

The cash for the roof repairs would come from an earmarked capital pot of £890k for the ‘refurbishment of capital assets’ in the town, which would form part of the match funding.

Council leader Brenda Warrington added she found it ‘astonishing’ that they were being criticised for spending money on the borough’s ‘prestigious buildings’.

“I certainly said for as long as I’ve been leader that we will do everything that we can to protect our heritage,” she said.

“And these prestigious buildings are part of that heritage and I make no apologies for this council wanting to make sure that we best protect them.

“You’re playing politics here when it’s really not necessary. We’re all trying to do the best for this borough.”

But responding to Labour, fellow ward councillor and party member, Cllr Liam Billington added: “He wasn’t attacking the spend per se, he was attacking the fact that it’s got to a point where £550k has to be spent on fixing the market hall roof to bring it into a state where it can be used.”

Council chiefs are also investigating whether the building could be transformed into a food destination like Altrincham Market or Manchester’s Mackie Mayor.

The cabinet has agreed to spend £75,000 on a feasibility study investigating whether the historic building could be reimagined as a food hall.

Officers say the proposals are currently ‘speculative’, but the popularity of events in the civic hall – including a beer festival and the Royal Exchange’s theatre pop-up – suggest there is a ‘demand’ to reuse the space.

They would hope to ’emulate the Altrincham Market model in Stalybridge Market Hall’, with food and drinks but ‘tastefully done’.

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