Stockport MBC is considering disposing of a list of properties, including Woodbank Hall. The Trust is concerned that the best interests of Stopfordians, to whom the property was left, are protected. This doesn't necessarily mean that the Trust opposes development. Commercial development can be the best way to protect the long term future of heritage sites as has been demonstrated by a number of Stockport developments.
The MBC has consulted the Trust on this matter. Attached is our response to the Charity Commission who over see the legacy of donations such as Woodbank Hall.
Email to Charity Commission from Steve Cliffe, Hon. Sec. of Stockport Heritage Trust
I am the hon. secretary of Stockport Heritage Trust and have been asked to make some observations on the above.
Bearing in mind the best interests of preserving Woodbank hall for the future we would hope that any re-development plans will respect the integrity of this Harrison designed building.
We also wish to observe that the hall and park are an integral unit and an area of special natural beauty and historical interest. The Marslands who had it laid out and resided there once owned the largest cotton mills in the world and were Stockport's earliest public benefactors creating water supplies and gas lighting.
The park is a traditional place of resort for the inner suburbs and the hall is its central landmark. The hall has a very pleasant aspect and atmosphere, both inside and out. The majority of the original interior features eg.(staircase,doors,fireplaces,plaster frieze) are intact and in good condition. We would wish to see these retained.
Our understanding is that the current use by Heritage Services would be continued if the hall is not sold or otherwise disposed of. A resident caretaker, which the hall currently enjoys, is perceived as an essential feature of the building's preservation, given its isolation during evening hours.
The original Trust deed indicates the possibility of assignment of parts of the gift. We would favour the letting of the building on a repairing lease as the Council does with its Pugin building in Cheadle, Abney Hall.
We believe that the historical and architectural importance of Woodbank Hall is underestimated and that it is vitally intrinsic as an historical landscape of unique survival and importance to the history of the development of Stockport.
For Stockport Heritage Trust.