Community campaigner and ex Salford Councillor, Mary Ferrer, has organised an open meeting for the people of Salford to come along and discuss proposals to build houses on land within the much loved Buile Hill Park as part of a deal between Salford Reds Foundation and Capital and Centric to bring the Grade 2 listed mansion back into use.
The meeting will take place from 7:30 pm onwards on Tuesday 12th of June at the Height Methodist Community Church, King Street, M6 7GY. All members of the public are invited and it is hoped that members of the two groups involved in the proposals, as well as representatives from the council, will also attend.
Salford Voice will be live streaming on our Facebook Page throughout the evening for those who can not attend.
Built in 1825-27, the Mansion was a family home of Sir Thomas Potter, Manchester's first Lord Mayor, later being bought by donations from the people of Salford and Salford Corporation taxes, whereupon it found use first as a Natural History Museum in 1975 and then later as the home of Salford Mining Museum, before being closed in 2000 and left to fall into a shocking state of disrepair and neglect due to budget cuts.
Salford Council has quoted costs of £1.6m to bring the Mansion back into use and a further cost of £1m per year to maintain it. Figures which many in the community have concerns about as they doubt Salford Reds Foundation could come up with that amount of cash on a year by year basis and they would struggle to maintain the funding needed to keep it open.
Possible solutions proposed by community members involve applications for lottery funding for the park and the mansion as well as offering an alternative piece of land to the developers as part of the deal. It is hoped that this meeting will help formulate a plan of action to restore this once magnificent mansion back to its former glory and transform a park that is in much need of a little TLC, back to its best.
Local community member and neighbour to the park, Lynda Curran, set up a petition shortly after fellow publication The Salford Star published an article highlighting the 'Memorandum of Understanding' in which it was proposed both sides should come together to formulate plans to restore the building. It was proposed that the restoration could be funded by allowing Capita and Centric to build homes on a former depot area within the Park.
Lynda questions how money can be found to maintain parks like Victoria Park on the doorstep of the Civic Centre in Swinton and Peel Park which neighbours the University on the Crescent, whilst this much-loved community green space is left to languish in limbo.
The online petition has so gathered in excess of 2700 signatures and prompted a lengthy debate at the local community committee meeting last month. Local councillors, Committee and members of the public pledged to write a letter to City Mayor Paul Dennett, outlining that they were completely against such plans.
Weaste Councillor, Paul Wilson, told the packed room that he would like to see the land used solely for leisure purposes and that both himself and his colleagues were against any plans to build homes on the park.
A unanimous show of hands at the meeting made very clear that none present were happy or wanted these proposals to go ahead in this form, however, former councillor Liberal Democrat Councillor, Norman Owen (now with the Labour Party) seemingly backed the proposal after the meeting, in a conversation in which he repeatedly referred to the GM spatial framework.
This Tuesday's meeting is primarily to allow members of the public to help formulate a plan of action to help save the mansion from further decline whilst preserving the park as a fully public asset.
Mary is no stranger to campaigning to save the mansion when as a Lib Dem Councillor she stood against the then Salford Reds owner John Wilkinson and his plans to turn the mansion into a luxury Spa and Boutique Hotel.
Plans that received huge criticism via a 500 strong petition and objections from four heritage groups and a raft of campaigners.
At the time Mary said:
"We believe the hotel scheme will change the character of the park for the worse, cause major parking problems, and prevent locals from using it the way they have for more than 150 years."
Little did she know that a few years later it would be groundhog day once more as she is now having to stand up once more to defend a community greenspace from what some in the area say is outrageous over-development of the area.
Wilkinsons plans ran into problems as money ran out, heritage groups slammed the plan and lottery funding was refused because of the commercial nature of the project.
Both the Park and Mansion have had an interesting life which is detailed both below and on the Councils website.
This timeline charts the major events.
1590: Plague victims buried in pit in Hart Hill meadow.
1825: Buile Hill mansion and estate built.
1876: The official opening of Seedley Park on 17 June.
1903: Buile Hill Park officially opened on 22 July.
1906: Buile Hill mansion opened as a Natural History Museum.
1909: Two tennis courts built.
1916: Anti-aircraft gun fixed in Buile Hill Park.
1928: Buile Hill conservatory is opened.
1934: An 18 hole pitch and putt course is opened. (Now used as a dog toilet)
1938: The new cafe and the Hart Hill extension are officially opened. The addition of the neighbouring Hart Hill estate created the boundary of the park as it is known today.
1939: The park's office becomes the headquarters of C Flight of the RAF Balloon Barrage.
1940: A bomb is dropped on Buile Hill.
1941: Salford blitz.
1943: Iron fencing along Eccles Old Road boundary removed for manufacture of bullets. (Never Replaced)
1945: VE Day celebrations take place in Buile Hill. Seedley Park lake is filled in.
1948: Reinstatement of Buile Hill conservatory (Now an empty shell).
1963: A garden for the blind is officially opened. (Now in ruins and closed to the public)
1972: Pets corner is opened. (Now dismantled and closed)
1975: Natural History Museum replaced by Salford Museum of Mining. (Now closed)
1980: Buile Hill mansion listed as a Grade 2 listed building.
2000: Lancashire Mining Museum closes. (Now in a derelict state requiring £1.6m to repair)
2001: Buile Hill Park listed as a Grade 2 designated park.
2008: Planning consent for conversion of mansion development and former stables into 93 bedroom hotel, function rooms and leisure suite.
2013: An archaeological excavation carried out by the Dig Greater Manchester project reveals the location of the former Hart Hill Mansion. Evidence of earlier buildings possibly dating back to the 18th century farmhouse are also found.