Councillors have locked horns over whether landmark buildings across Tameside – including Hyde Library and the old Hippodrome – are being ‘left to rot’.
At a meeting of the full council, Labour and Tory members clashed about the state of some of the borough’s high street icons, and whether selling them off was the right step.
It came after Conservative group leader Councillor Doreen Dickinson criticised the council for not drawing up a policy on its land assets for ‘two and a half years’.
This would list what assets the council owns and if it would dispose of them if they became surplus to requirements.“Instead buildings are being left to rot like Hyde Library, Tameside Hippodrome and Ashton Town Hall,” she said.
“Excluding Ashton town hall, which hopefully will never be for sale, the rest are in such bad condition that they wouldn’t bring anything like their original value.”
The landmark Hippodrome theatre on Old Street in Ashton-under-Lyne closed in 2008.
It once played host to Charlie Chaplin, Hetty King, Dame Gracie Fields and The Chuckle Brothers in its 100 year-long reign.
Cabinet member for finance, Cllr Oliver Ryan, said a policy on land disposals would be going before the cabinet in August.
“What we want to avoid is a fire sale of assets,” he added.
“You’ve listed buildings like the Hippodrome and Hyde Library and these are buildings that are really important to their communities in Ashton and Hyde and it’s right that we take the time to work out what’s best for them to serve those communities.
“I don’t think selling them off quicker or selling them off at all would necessarily have been the best option for those sites, I think we were right to take the time that we have done to assess them.
“They’ve not been left to rot and I would argue against the point that you’ve made there.”
He said that the council also borrows money to fund its capital projects as well as raising money from selling its assets.
“We’ve spent a lot of time consulting with councillors and communities about the best way to take some of these assets forward because to be frank, some of the low hanging fruit that the council perhaps had ten years ago is no longer there,” Cllr Ryan added.
However Hyde Werneth ward Cllr Phil Chadwick hit back angrily at the finance chief’s response around the former Hyde Library building on Union Street.
“I assume that Councillor Ryan has been inside Hyde Library and seen the state of the interior, has been round the outside and seen all the smashed windows and boarded up buildings that surround it,” he said.
“To say that the building hasn’t been left to rot is an absolute disgrace and a lie and I’d like that retracting please.”
Council leader Brenda Warrington told the meeting that the condition of the buildings had been deteriorating over time.
“Franky they’ve been rotting for a long time some of them, it’s not something that’s happened in the last couple of years,” she said.
“The Hyde Library situation; certainly it’s something that we have on our radar, it’s something that we want to do something with.
“I know that some people in Hyde do feel that that building is some kind of an icon and if it is then we will do what we can to help preserve it but a lot of the building – the frontage is lovely but I think the rest of it leaves a lot to be desired.”
She added there was work to be carried out to see what work could be done within the ‘finance packet’ that the council could afford.
But there were other buildings in the borough that they could no longer ‘tolerate’ maintaining if they are costing the authority money.
“Other buildings, some of them, I don’t know whether it’s just total sentimentality I’ve not idea but some of them are costing us an awful lot of money to provide security when frankly they are of absolutely no value whatsoever,” Cllr Warrington said.
“We do have to make some decisions about these because we can’t keep spending money on something that is really no value to us.”