"Use Stone Roses money to pay for Heaton Hall facelift," say residents (From Prestwich and Whitefield Guide)
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"Use Stone Roses money to pay for Heaton Hall facelift," say residents
11:58am Thursday 16th August 2012 in News
COUNCILLORS and residents have challenged town hall bosses to “show them the money” to save a treasured landmark.
Heaton Hall, regarded by many as the centrepiece of Heaton Park, closed in February despite an outcry from visitors and neighbours.
Manchester City Council, which runs the park, says the neoclassical Grade I-listed hall needs £9 million of investment, but critics have challenged it to put some figures on the table.
Last year, councillors granted permission for huge rock concerts to take place in the park each summer and ruled all profits must be spent on maintaining Heaton Park.
But the authority is refusing to say how much it made from hosting the three Stone Roses gigs this summer.
A council spokesman told The Guide it was “a six-figure sum”, but said commercial confidentiality prevented them from giving an exact figure.
Councillors have blasted that decision, claiming they are unable to decide if there is a case for opening the hall if they do not know how much cash the council has for its upkeep.
Cllr Tim Pickstone, who represents Holyrood, said: “Manchester is making all this money from concerts but keeps the treasure at the centre of the park closed.
“We’re lucky to have a building as beautiful and of such significant architectural heritage on our doorstep — and in public ownership.
“It is such a shame the council has taken the decision to leave it closed and that it cannot be enjoyed by the people of Greater Manchester.”
The Guide is using freedom of information legislation in a bid to find out the profit information from the council.
Park neighbour Amanda Smith, of Friends of Heaton Hall, said: “How on earth can any council be run if it cannot be transparent with the money they have got?
“I would like to see this figure released as soon as possible.”
The hall was built by celebrated architect James Wyatt in 1778 at the request of Sir Thomas Egerton, the first Earl of Wilton.
The Orangery was built in 1823 and has in recent years become a popular a function venue for wedding receptions and school proms.
The Egertons sold the hall to what is now known as Manchester City Council in 1902, and a covenant means it can never be sold to a private company.
But is understood the council is considering allowing a charity such as The National Trust to run it — a move supported by Cllr Pickstone and others.
The council’s culture representative, Cllr Rosa Battle, said: “While the income we received from the concerts is being invested back into the park, this money would be a drop in the ocean compared with the magnitude of what is required to fully restore the hall.
“The hall is an important jewel in Manchester’s crown, but fully restoring the building so it can be reopened to Manchester residents and other people living nearby will require multi-million pound funding.
“Our longer-term aspiration is that we will be able to secure funding through a range of sources including the Heritage Lottery Fund, which Stockport Council was able to access to help them restore Bramhall Hall.
“However, we now need to wait until other pressures on the fund, such as the Olympics, have eased.”
She added: “In the medium-term we are working with national heritage partners who share our commitment to the hall on a project-by-project basis, to help us make progress towards this goal.”
Prestwich and Whitefield Heritage Society is currently running a Heaton Park and Hall exhibition upstairs at Prestwich Library until December.