Hyde councillor joins park conservatory protest

HYDE councillor Jim Fitzpatrick has joined the call against a decision by Tameside Council to demolish a conservatory in a park.

Cllr Jim Fitzpatrick signs the petition

And the main problem is the way it was handled, with many elected representatives not finding out the decision had been made until it was posted on social media.

Cllr Fitzpatrick joined councillors from across the borough to show his displeasure at the call by the authority’s executive cabinet to get rid of the structure at Stamford Park.

Even though it lies on the border between Ashton and Stalybridge, the feeling was it would impact everyone in the borough.

It meant several residents, many of whom have been in the conservatory which was first erected on the site in 1907, moaned about why it had been decided suddenly it would be pulled down.

Cllr Fitzpatrick was on their side and added his name to a petition, which attracted more than 2,500 signatures in just three days.

The feeling among councillors was that they had wrongly been left in the dark.

John Taylor, Tameside’s longest serving councillor, only knew a decision was being made when he read about it on Facebook.

Godley Cllr Fitzpatrick’s Labour party colleague Jan Jackson, who represents Stalybridge North, said: “I didn’t know it was coming until the decision was made.

“The main thing to come out of all of this is communication – inform the relevant people that would like to know, like us.

“We represent the area where the conservatory is and more consultation with residents, users, and the Friends of Stamford Park would have been helpful.

“Although the executive has made its decision, it is not the final decision as it will have to go before full council.

“We’re happy to hear proposal, suggestions and ideas until it does. There was a business that approached us a few years ago about using the conservatory as its headquarters.

“We asked them to come up with a business plan but that was the last we heard of it.”

The protest at Stamford Park

Local MPs Angela Rayner and Jonathan Reynolds have also voiced their opposition to Tameside Council’s plan.

In a joint letter, they wrote: “At present, it is not in use and hasn’t been open to the public since 2015 due to it being deemed unsafe to enter.

“But Stamford Park is an extremely well-used and much-loved facility and you only have to look at comments made by members of the public in reaction to plans to demolish the greenhouse to gauge the strength of feeling on this matter.

“We urge you to reconsider. 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.”

Passions have been running high after the decision, particularly towards Cllr Oliver Ryan, who pointed out the conservatory currently standing is a 1980s replacement.

His claim that ‘Residents elect councillors to make decisions like this’ did not know one was being made did not go down well.

In response to Mr Reynolds and Mrs Rayner, he said: “Like many faux-Edwardian structures of the 1980s, the conservatory is not at all historic. 

“The scheme is an investment in Stamford Park and one we ought to welcome, replacing a redundant 1980s hazard with a new community space.

“The park has already had over £4 million invested in it in recent years and is the jewel in Tameside’s green crown, regrettably the ongoing deterioration of this structure is a blight on an otherwise outstanding public space.

“I make no apology for choosing to protect social care services instead of throwing an additional £100,000 a year of precious revenue to maintain this precious building, not including repairs of vandalism for this glass house or the £10,000 cost of oil heating.

“Replacement of the building is not economically viable, with up to £500,000 expected to be needed in addition to the ongoing costs above.

“After four years of decay we cannot leave this 1980s conservatory detracting from the high standards of this flagship and award winning park. 

“The original 1907 conservatory was a local landmark as you say, however it was demolished and reconstructed brick by brick in the 1980s and is not now a historic structure as a result.”

People against the plan launched a petition on social media and Denton woman Charlotte Castro is one of the people behind it.

She said: “It’s taken Tameside by storm.It’s the lack of consultation of a lot of people over such a historic structure that’s caused anger.

“A lot of people may not be from Stalybridge but it’s memories of their childhood having been in there – look at it now compared to how it was 20 years ago.

“Other parks, like Alexandra Park in Oldham, have similar structures and they are stunning. 

“We want a conversation over how could we fix it and how did it get in this state?”

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