A POPULAR civic hall could be knocked down as part of the council’s plans to regenerate Prestwich.

The Longfield Suite in Bury New Road, which opened in 1971, could close ¬– but councillors have said it must be replaced by another facility elsewhere in the area.

This comes almost a decade after a campaign to save the suite which was under threat of closure was backed by Bury South MP Ivan Lewis.

Now, the local authority may knock down the civic hall, a shopping centre and a restaurant as it steps in as the “master developer” in a multi-million-pound bid to regenerate Prestwich.

Cllr Eamonn O’Brien, explained the council’s position at a meeting on Wednesday night where the cabinet agreed to spend up to £1.45m in pre-development costs for the project.

He said: “Clearly, the building itself may not be in a great condition and not have much of a future. People say its dragging the centre of Prestwich down just by the look of it.

“What we’d need to make sure in any development, if the Longfield Suite is to go, we would need a civic suite. That would be a replacement facility in the centre of Prestwich.”

The St Mary’s ward councillor told the cabinet that by taking the role of “master developer” in the regeneration scheme, the council would have a say in the future of the Longfield Suite.

Bury Council has agreed it will take control of the scheme, but pay an external company, Muse Developments, to manage the project.

After agreeing to buy the Istanbul restaurant in Bury New Road earlier this year, it will now look to acquire the lease for the Longfield shopping centre.

Sedgley councillor Alan Quinn welcomed the council’s intervention to progress the plans which have been in the making for more than a decade.

But he agreed that the Longfield Suite may not have a future in Prestwich.

He said: “Prestwich at the moment is booming. It’s the best place to eat and dine in North Manchester. Houses are selling on the day. Prestwich is now on the map as some where people want to go. We can’t keep looking at the Longfield and giving it a lick of paint. It’s well past its sell-by date.”

Lib Dem leader Tim Pickstone asked whether a new facility would open before the Longfield Suite closes.

Paul Lakin, director of regeneration and capital growth, warned against closing the suite prematurely and creating “dead space” on the high street.

He said: “My advice would be you keep it open for as long as possible. You don’t close that until you have a scheme and you have all the contractors in place.”

READ MORE: Council reveals £1.45m proposal to move Prestwich regeneration project forward

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Pickstone called on the council to make guarantees about the future of the community space and any proposed alternatives.

He said: “Finally, Prestwich Labour have admitted they see no future for the Longfield Suite. What we need is absolute guarantees that whatever happens in the future, the community spaces provided will be at least as good as what we have now, if not even better. The Longfield Suite is currently used for a wide variety of community activities, with no obvious alternative venue in Prestwich.”

Bury South MP Ivan Lewis said: "I have long supported a radical regeneration of Prestwich Precinct and the surrounding area. Only last month I met with the Secretary Of State For Communities and Local Government to request Government financial support for the regeneration scheme.

"Any scheme must either have an upgraded or replacement Longfield Civic facility as a key feature."