Tameside chiefs have agreed to declare buildings and land – including the former Hyde Library – as 'surplus to requirements' but bosses denied the council was 'washing its hands' of them.
At a meeting of the executive cabinet, members signed off on a report which will allow them to move forward with disposing of 14 sites the town hall says it no longer needs.
This includes the Hyde Library building on Union Street, which has lain empty since 2015.
A report to cabinet states that retention of the building is likely to be expensive, but adds: “In seeking to declare the subject asset surplus, this would represent the first step in promoting conversion or redevelopment of the derelict property.”
Speaking at the meeting, portfolio holder for finance and economic growth Councillor Oliver Ryan said they had undertaken ‘significant consultation’ with residents and ward councillors about the various sites.
“This is the start of a conversation for us, so by adding them to the list of surplus for disposal it doesn’t mean that the council is washing its hands of the building,” he added.
“What it does mean is we’re looking at options available to us and I was a bit upset that that was the tone that was taken.
“With the Hyde library case we are very much not in the business of trying to sell that building, what we are trying to do is come forward with a development plan and in order to that we have to declare it surplus to requirements.
“To be absolutely clear with people, this means we can start the conversation about options.”
Hyde Godley councillor Joe Kitchen added that the library building was a ‘key site’ for the centre of Hyde.
“I can confirm we did meet with Councillor Ryan and we all supported the surplus requirement for this site so we can move forward,” he told the meeting.
Coun Ryan added that local councillors in Denton South ward, as well as Andrew Gwynne MP had also written to him with concerns about the future of the Mill Lane site, next to the former Two Trees school, and its capacity to accommodate new homes.
“Obviously this isn’t a nice thing to do but we’ve got to recognise that we’ve got a government imposed housing target, we’ve got a real lack of finances to be able to support other projects that we want to run and so we are having to look at this development on Two Trees,” he said.
“We want to start a conversation with the community and councillors about what that looks like in the future.”
The possible sale of assets would raise money for the town hall’s capital programme, which is currently facing a £32m funding shortfall.
Paul Smith, assistant director of strategic property said the list of surplus assets would help generate ‘vital funding’ that will allow them to move forward with further investment and regeneration projects.
“It provides us with opportunities to deliver much needed housing in the area, repurpose and review, and create local jobs for communities within Tameside making it a place where people want to live, work and invest,” he added.
“Our officers will continue to ensure that communities are aware of any progress being made in relation to potential sale and development of land and buildings in their area, and any future developments on any sites will be subject to their own consultation, and any disposals will be subject to further governance.”
Other buildings on the list of proposed surplus assets includes Hollingworth Community Centre on Cannon Street.
This is currently being used by the First Longdendale Scout Group, but officers says the scouts trustees have been ‘unable to honour’ their lease obligations around repairing the building.
“As an example, in recent months, the council have spent a considerable sum of money on the property, in order to make the building safe and suitable for one off election use,” the report states.
“Given the issues, it is proposed that the council take possession, prior to considering potential community asset transfer to a new group, who will provide wider community use which, would include the Scouts ‘hiring’ the space for their sessions.”
The chapel at Mossley cemetery is another building that the council wishes to no longer own.
However it says it has received an enquiry from an undertaker who wants to use the property as a chapel of rest.
Other sites to be listed as surplus are land off Greenside Lane and Chelwood Drive in Droylsden, former 1 Hulme Street in Ashton, and former 1 and 3 Arlies Street, also in Ashton.
More Ashton sites are also included; land at Raynham Street to the rear of 1-11 Mount Pleasant Street, the cleared site of former 154 Mossley Road, former 39 Curzon Road and the former Waterloo Library on Taunton Road.
Denton Nursery on Cemetery Road, land at Lower Bennett Street and Arnside Drive in Hyde are also included, as is the cleared site of former 31-43 Holden Street and land at Cowhill Lane and Wimpole Street in Ashton.