After a long and bitter battle between the community and Salford Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund has finally sided with the community and rejected the Council's bid for a £3million `Parks for People' grant.
At the centre of the fight was John Wilkinson's plan to install a four star 93 bedroom hotel within Buile Hill Park's listed mansion building, formerly owned by the people of Salford. Against local public opinion, Wilkinson was given planning permission for the hotel. And Salford Council submitted the bid to restore the park with the hotel at its centre.
Critics argued that the restoration would merely enhance the hotel from which the public would be excluded, and letters and petitions were sent to the Lottery urging it to reject the Council's funding application. Now the Lottery has accepted the arguments put forward by critics, including Claremont Community Association.
"Whilst we recognised the historical importance of Buile Hill Park to both the local community and Salford, we had concerns about how the development of a hotel within the park would impact on its character" says Sara Hilton, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund North West "There is a high level of competition for our money and unfortunately we were unable to support this particular application."
Lib Dem Councillor Mary Ferrer, who led the opposition to the hotel, is pleased that the community's arguments were taken on board.
"I am actually glad that somebody has listened to what the people of Salford wanted" she says "We didn't want a hotel in a park, but because the Council wouldn't listen to other options we have now lost the Lottery bid. If we would have worked together we wouldn't be in the situation we are in today."
Now it's hoped that Wilkinson will back away from the project and the mansion will be given back to the people of Salford as a community resource.
Meanwhile, in a report to the Lead Member For Environment, dated 30th March 2009, Salford Council estimated that it would cost £72,685 in fees and surveys if the bid failed…
From Salford Star issue 8
Is a four star hotel in the middle of a public park going to benefit the people of Salford?
`The applicants conclude that with developments such as Media City, the number of people requiring high quality hotels will expand…'
Extract from planning panel notes
Stop Press 3rd July
Salford Council has just issued this staement from Councillor Joe Murphy, lead member for the environment:
"The news from the Heritage Lottery Fund is very disappointing but we remain committed to the redevelopment of Buile Hill Park for Salford residents. Our main priority right now is to get the feedback from the HLF to see what we can do to take things forward.This doesn't mean that we can can't put in another bid to the HLF in the future and our next steps will be to work with them to see what needs to be done to do this."
P.S. We suggest he starts listening to Salford people and that the Council gives us back our heritage. We understand that John Wilkinson doesn't actually own the mansion yet, so it wouldn't be hard to do.