The Stamford Park conservatory WILL be demolished. That was the defiant message from Tameside Council at a fiery full council meeting on Tuesday night, despite fierce opposition.
The Tameside Conservatives had attempted to pass a motion calling for the demolition to be postponed until March 2020, to give residents time to explore options for future use.
But the motion failed, with a Labour amendment passing instead, which stated: “Council recognises that the Stamford Park Greenhouse is in a dangerous condition, is a threat to public safety and that ultimately demolition remains the intention.”
Council leader Brenda Warrington said that while she is happy to meet any properly constituted group to discuss the future of the current site, “That structure that is currently stood there will not remain standing.”
Councillors and residents clashed at the heated full council meeting, which was attended by several of the Friends of the John Nield Stamford Park Conservatory.
Speaking in favour of the Conservative’s motion, opposition leader, Cllr Doreen Dickinson said: “I’ve been on the council long enough to know that the leader and the party in control of the council have to make very tough decisions from time to time and I respect that. I also know that as councillors, we should be listening to the people that elected us, because surely that is why we stood?
“When you have 4500 people signing a petition and forming a 2442-member group, you have to admire, respect and listen to why they have done so and hopefully act on it.”
Labour’s Oliver Ryan blamed the decision to demolish the conservatory on austerity and accused the Conservatives of “moving deckchairs on the Titanic.”
“Had our budget not been cut by £200m of spending power and we were in our 2010 position, we would not be having this conversation today,” he said.
He then attacked the Conservative group for voting the council’s 2019-20 budget but then 'asking for more money', much to the opposition’s anger.
“The fact is that you’ve cut it, you’ve voted with us and now turned around and said you disagree,” Cllr Ryan said. “It’s perverse. you’ve got one face to the protestors, you’ve got another one in here and you’ve got another one to your members. The duplicity of the group is absolutely astonishing.”
Cllr Dickinson interjected, pointing out that the Conservative motion did not ask for money.
She told the meeting: “I didn’t ask for a lecture in finance, I was asking for time. The conservatory has stood empty for four years. Another six months is neither here nor there to the council, but would mean an awful lot to the people who are trying to take it over.”
In support, Conservative councillor Liam Billington pointed out that the Council wasted £31,000 on the RingGo parking app in Ashton and are spending £95,000 on pedestrianising roads outside the Council offices.
The Green party councillor Lee Huntbach also argued that a petition of over 4500 signatures can’t be put down to political pressure or hysteria, as had been claimed by Labour.
But despite the petition, a protest and the Friends group being formed, the campaign to save the conservatory has fallen on deaf ears.
Speaking immediately after the Labour amendment was passed, Matthew Clarke, of the Friends of the John Nield Stamford Park Conservatory, said: ““I think it’s disgusting. There was no willingness to talk to anybody.
“I get where she was coming from about being a group with a constitution but we have reached out to her on a number of occasions to be hit with a brick wall of silence. I can’t say I’m overly impressed. As it stands at the moment, I feel like we’re fighting a losing battle.
An application to name the conservatory as a community asset has been received by Tameside Council and will take up to eight weeks to process.
Charlotte Castro, who sponsored the application, added: “I watched the meeting with interest tonight as we have already started the official process as a duo of constituted groups to work together with the council to formally asset the site for the people of Tameside.
“I have now written to the executive to request to take them up on the offer given tonight to meet and go through our submitted outline business plan in further detail. It documents our plans from repair and survey to the future use of the site for the community.”
The Labour group voted unanimously to keep demolition the priority, with the five Conservative councillors and one Green Party councillor voting against the Labour amendment.
Stalybridge North councillor, Sam Gosling, said: "I stand by my vote for the demolition of Stamford Park conservatory. The conservatory is unsafe and a danger to the public.
"I would like to thank the leader for her swift response to the Conservative motion. The amendment is clear. It will allow constituted groups to come forward and have a conversation about what is put on that site.
"This is the best course of action as it is clear that the conservatory has to go."