Future of Stamford Park’s Conservatory lies in balance

After an initial stay of execution, the future of John Nield Conservatory in Stamford Park still lies in the balance. If demolition went ahead this summer, the iconic conservatory would have been replaced by a manicured garden, which would have opened in September this year.

Instead of there being a bleak conservatory-sized hole in Tameside’s Number One public park, there could be a 2020 vision towards its continued use. In a email message to the Save Stamford Park Conservatory group, Councillor Brenda Warrington, could overturn its demolition.

After Christmas 2019, there will be a meeting between Tameside MBC and the Save Stamford Park Conservatory group in January 2020. Whilst plans were made for the conservatory’s demolition, the Save Stamford Park Conservatory Group also made an application to Historic England for Listed Building Status.

Listed Building Status rejected

Though the conservatory has been saved from demolition, the group’s application for its listing wasn’t successful. According to Historic England, and the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, it was claimed, “the impact of alterations has compromised the integrity of the original design”.

Furthermore, it states that “the connection with John Nield, and the strong communal value, are of local rather than national significance“. As for group value within the registered landscape (Stamford Park itself), “not sufficient to outweigh the impact of alterations“.

The Stamford Park Conservatory Group have 28 days to appeal the decision. What could have been worse is if the conservatory gained Grade II Listed Building status prior to demolition.

Fundraising and publicity

If the demolition decision is overturned, the John Nield Conservatory could be a step closer to restoration instead of demolition. If successful, there could be fundraising efforts, public events and in raising awareness of Stamford Park’s summer house.

As for publicity, this could mean occasional events in church halls or public houses in the vicinity of Stamford Park. At present, this includes The Sycamore Inn.

There is also scope for making Bob The Banana Plant more of an online and/or physical mascot. Online, Bob could have his own Facebook page, Twitter feed, or Instagram channel.

As a physical mascot, he could appear on display boards, publicity material, or (when the conservatory reopens) play a starring role in a Stamford Park trim trail. Whoever wears a Bob The Banana Plant costume (Enhanced DBS checked of course) could go to schools and town centres, and dish out bananas. Bob could be part of local public health campaigns.

Where next for the Save Stamford Park Conservatory Group? A lot of it rests upon next year’s meeting. Hopefully, the ‘save’ part of their name could be redundant.

Local support

Since the threat of demolition, support for the John Nield Conservatory has remained high. In nearly six months, we have looked at how Stamford Park’s summer house could see continued use. Over the last five years, we have seen how its recent neglect has necessitated its closure.

If you visit the Save Stamford Park Conservatory Facebook page, there are 2,690 members. Press coverage in the Correspondent family of local newspapers (Stalybridge Correspondent et al) has been favourable towards the group, recognising its local interest. With this week’s news, we hope to see a positive outcome in their forthcoming meeting. As things stand, the next six months will be interesting.

If successful, the hard work towards securing its future will begin. Hopefully with a conservatory that is suitable for continued use in years to come. Whatever happens, we hope that Bob the Banana Plant will be staying put, at least for the foreseeable future.

S.V., 31 October 2019.

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