SOAG's 2003 Campaign
A Time of Promise and of Reversal
SOAG gets a new chairman, and a new Council is elected.
At first it looks good. In autumn, the conservative group plans to abandon the sale, but SOAG is asked for its view on the sale if the proceeds are re-invested in the gardens. By spring the sale once again appears on the agenda.
We ask the Government to list the Ashton Institute.
The rose gardens that SOAG replanted have a commemorative stone placed in them.
Fred Moor is elected Chairman of SOAG at its AGM and sets out a plan to increase SOAGs membership and influence. He asks each of the political groups to make a manifesto statement regarding their plans for Ashton Gardens.
A new start?
The election has seen the return to control of the Conservative group under the leadership of John Coombes.
Prior to the election, he said that the Conservative group would do all they could to progress the "Option 3" lottery bid that would see £1 million worth of improvements in the Gardens. He said "To sum up we are in agreement with your aims, we are committed to seeing this proposal successfully submitted and are keen to ensure that the future of Ashton Gardens is secured for the residents of St Annes. I am sure that will shall be having more positive discussions on this subject in the future."
We look forward to the future with more hope than before.
Council Leader John Coombes asks SOAG to consider whether we would support selling part of the gardens if the money is reinvested in the gardens. We disagree with this plan. Our full reply can be found here.
We should have known better. We were led to believe by several individual councillors who said in confidence that the Conservative Group would reverse the decision to sell part of the gardens.
John Coombes himself wrote "Sorry for the delay in responding but I know you are aware of the pressures at the moment. I have again raised the issue of the lottery bid submission and I have called a special meeting of the Conservative group for Monday in which to discuss this specific issue. A decision needs to be made in respect of the Institute and stood by. Officers will submit the as instructed in the near future"
The (confidential) note of their meeting said:
"Heritage Lottery Urban Parks Programme: Paul Walker to report to Corporate Policy Committee on 3rd November re the proposed disposal of part of Ashton Gardens (Ashton Institute and Red Cabin Yard). Committee asked to review previous decision (some five years ago) to dispose in view of inability to dispose. If previous resolution is overturned, then asset reverts back to L&R Policy Committee"
"Paul Norris to report to Leisure & Recreation Policy Committee on 3rd December re decision of CP Committee and preparation and submission of HLF bid for Ashton Gardens or Promenade Gardens (or both!). The Ashton Gardens Restoration & Management Plan will need to be updated by Scott Wilson before submission to HLF."
We understood the officer reports were written, but remained on the shelf, as these plans were later abandoned, with the decision to progress the sale being taken behind closed doors.
We sense that the Institute is once again under threat, but this time from a Council that wants to asset strip to raise cash for improvements. SOAG is fortunate to meet retired architect Colin Widmer-Barnes who is impressed by the Ashton Institute, and believes it to be an important original domestic colonial style building. On behalf of SOAG, he prepares a case for it to be listed and asks the Government to list.
10 November 2003
Watched by the Mayor and Councillor Jealous, Councillor Mrs. Barbara Pagett unveils the commemorative stone recording the replanting of the rose gardens undertaken by SOAG members and friends.