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Town council bids for more time at offices

By Cheadle Post and Times  |  Posted: February 19, 2014

Cheadle Council Offices
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TOWN leaders are biding for more time to stay in Cheadle council offices for longer after receiving official notice to leave the building next month.

Cheadle Town Council has been given Notice To Quit the council offices in Leek Road, Cheadle, by its owners Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, which is looking to sell the building for redevelopment.

The town council, which had originally looked into taking over the premises, but was not able to due to financial restraints, has been given until March to find alternative premises.

During a monthly meeting of the full town council on Monday, February 17, councillors said that they were "appalled" at the way they had been notified in the form of an email, instead of a formal letter to the council.

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They also considered the possibility of finding alternative meeting rooms, and arranged to set up a working party to identify fixtures and fittings to be retained by the town council, once they leave.

Councillor Gary Bentley suggested asking the district council if the town council could rent the building in the meantime for a monthly rate, while they find a buyer.

He said: "With is being a public building, could we ask them to advertise it with us being interested in carrying on with this part of the building.

"This does lend itself to being kept and used as a meeting room and someone could still use the rest for offices.

"Also could there be a stipulation that before anyone buys it, they have to say what it will be used for, like they did with Lulworth House."

District and town councillor Richard Alcock also asked if there could be a stipulation saying that the building cannot be demolished.

Councillor Ray Wood added: "Can we ask for a month's grace?

"Just because we voted not to take this on for financial reasons does not mean that we want to see it knocked down."

County councillor Mike Worthington also agreed that the way in which the town council was notified was "disrespectful" and suggested the town council register the building as a community asset and ask for an extension. Deputy town mayor and district councillor Ron Locker supported the idea of registering it as a Community Asset, as it is also used as a meeting room by the Cheadle sports and Arts Councils.

He said: "We do not and never have wanted to see this levelled it was purely for financial reasons that we are where we are.

"It was appalling for an officer to send an email to an organisation that has been here since 1974.

"We should try to do everything we can and by applying for this to be a Community Asset it would delay its sale for six months.

"It would give us the opportunity to carry on where we are, there is no reason why that status shouldn't be given for this building as it's important and it is just unfortunate that we couldn't see our way forward to take it on."

Speaking about creating a working party to retain items such as the spitfires and list of previous chairman of the original Cheadle Urban and District Council, Mr Locker added: "These things should be retained because they belong to the people of Cheadle, and we should get the chairman chain back from the district council, which belongs to Cheadle."

District and town councillor Stephen Ellis advised that for a building to become a Community Asset it has to demonstrate that it was being used by the community. He added: "At the moment this building is empty and other than the occasional sporadic meeting of the Sports and Arts Councils, and our meetings, it is not enough and we would struggle to register.

"It is a useful stalling tactic, but I don't think it will meet the criteria.

"I agree that the notice should have been served in the proper way by a letter duly signed and sealed and that is appalling that it's not been done.

"If we stay here we have to think about funding the caretaking, but we still need to do some leg work to look at other options available to us.

"No one has ever said it would be demolished."

District and town councillor Julie Bull said: "It is a much loved building in the town and we need to do all we can to stay here; I don't see why the district council wouldn't allow us to stay here while they look for a buyer, we're not doing any harm. It's not an unreasonable request.

"We need to write to the chief executive and leader of the district council, not just the officer.

"We could play these tactics, but really we're just going to go through more heartache and it probably won't happen and we need to find groups with the wherewithal to take this on."

Town mayor councillor Ian Plant said the town council still needed a contingency plan. He added: "The town council is accountable to their electorate, and as such it has a responsibility to make sound decisions on their behalf which sometimes are made under difficult circumstances.

"Had the council taken on the lease for this building this would have inevitably become a burden on the tax payer.

"To be clear, it would not be in the town council's best interest to lose this building, they will not only be losing part of their history but they will also be losing their longstanding meeting place.

"This was a hard decision to make and the public can rest assured that the town council did explore all other avenues to try and retain the building for the people of Cheadle, but in the end there was no other choice.

"However, I can categorically say we are strongly opposed to its demolition and hope that a useful solution can be found by the Staffordshire Moorlands District Council for this purpose-built building."

A spokesperson for Staffordshire Moorlands District Council said: "We have advised Cheadle Town Council that they will no longer be able to hire meeting rooms after March. The council offices in Cheadle have been declared surplus to the operational requirements of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council and will be sold on the open market.

"This has not come out of the blue to the Town Council who have been aware of the District Council's position for some time and did consider taking over the building themselves but were unable to progress this option."

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