The historic Greater Manchester hall left in ‘state of dereliction’ despite £250,000 council funding

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The building has been included on Historic England's Heritage at Risk Register.

A historic hall in Stockport has been left in a “state of dereliction” despite the council’s promise to invest £250,000 on essential repairs, a former conservation director has claimed.

Grade II* listed Woodbank Hall, a Georgian villa in Woodbank Park, has been included on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register this year and is described as being in danger of “immediate risk of further rapid deterioration or loss of fabric” with “no solution agreed” on the future of the site.

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Woodbank Hall from the outside Woodbank Hall from the outside
Woodbank Hall from the outside

The hall dates back to 1814 and was also included on the Risk Register last year, leading to calls to save the abandoned site that was donated to the people of Stockport in the early 20th century. The building has a long history and was once called home by Peter Marsland, an industrialist who established the first mill to use steam-powered looms to produce cloth from wool in the 1820s, according to Stockport Heritage Trust.

However, John Fidler, a former conservation director at English Heritage, said little seems to have been done to protect the historic landmark despite his efforts to raise awareness of its state.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “The current declining situation is one of simple neglect. Stockport’s failure to set a good example with respect to the maintenance of the Hall undermines its planning, amenity, and public safety positions with respect to other listed and non-listed buildings in the borough.”

Damage inside the historic Woodbank Hall building in Stockport. Picture: John FidlerDamage inside the historic Woodbank Hall building in Stockport. Picture: John Fidler
Damage inside the historic Woodbank Hall building in Stockport. Picture: John Fidler

Mr Fidler contacted three Stockport councillors including Colin MacAlister, who is responsible for economy, regeneration and housing in the borough, on November 24 raising his concerns about the building, but claims he did not receive a response.

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He wrote in an email: “We communicated with your officers last winter over the parlous condition of the Hall … but since then – nothing. Now we approach another extremely wet winter, and the Hall remains yet again in a worsening state of dereliction.”

He explained that problems at the hall range from roofs leaking to blocked gutters pushing moisture into the walls causing outbreaks of timber decay. However, Coun MacAlister said the council is using the funds to try to protect the site from further damage.

He said: “We understand the concerns about the welfare and use of Woodbank Hall and that is why the council has committed £250,000 to address the decline of the historic hall. Work has already begun with essential asbestos removal work completed and the next stage of procuring a package of protection works underway. This will also include the demolition of the redundant modern outbuildings. It is expected to be completed by the end of March 2024, subject to planning and building consents.”

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