Our group, the Friends of Hough End Hall was established in 2013 to bring the then vacant Hough End Hall back into use, emphasising its heritage value and its potential as a hub for the local community. We did a lot of work on several fronts:
Getting the building listed as an “asset of community value” which meant a period during which its sale was prevented, giving the community a chance to plan and bid for it.
Raising awareness locally and consulting with the local community over the future use of the Hall.
Obtaining a small grant to help work up our proposals, which included incorporation as a charitable company, engaging an architect, developing a business plan and making further grant applications.
Lobbying Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) (the owner) and the Treasury (part owner of RBS) to ensure that the building did not fall into the wrong hands.
Applying for funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to both restore the building and bring it into effective community use.
Conducted other fund-raising activity.
Carried out some of the research and the illustrations which led to the publication of our book, Hough End Hall: The Story (available from the Bookshop and the Library in Chorlton).
Our plan was for the building to be a community hub and to become self-financing after an initial restoration and start-up period. To this end we worked with a local charitable institution towards a joint project to buy the Hall and achieve this, but sadly this fell through.
In Summer, 2015, the building was sold by RBS to a local group who planned to run the Hall as Hough End Academy, for a health promotion programme orientated largely towards the South Asian community. Dr Pasha, who has led this project, first made enquiries of ourselves before approaching RBS: it was our campaign that helped raise awareness of the building among potential buyers, helping RBS (and the public purse) dispose of the building.
In October, we published the following statement on behalf of the new owners:
“The building is now owned by a local charity and will be called ‘Hough End Hall Academy’. It will be used for educational purposes. The Academy will be responsible for preserving, protecting, and restoring the building and its rich history. Hough End Hall Academy are making their official website and request the community to use it for future information and suggestions. In the meanwhile, suggestions are welcome and can be given in the Suggestion Box that will be arranged to be placed outside the building. The Academy is preparing the building and will invite the community as soon as the building is in a presentable condition.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need any further information.”
In January we had a group to group meeting which was very friendly. We believe that, although it was not the project we had in mind, the Hough End Hall Academy project is a worthwhile one, well resourced and orientated to meeting a community need: one of the things we wanted to see happen.
We are less confident about the heritage dimension: it does not appear to be a major interest of the Academy, although they did express interest in co-operating with some of our members on things like a heritage display within the building. However, we do not know whether the responsibilities of the owners of owning and maintaining a Grade 2* listed building were fully understood. Since then we have had only limited contact with the group. They appear to have been faced with some challenges with the fabric of the building, so their time-scales for establishing the project will be longer than originally anticipated. So far there does not appear to be a website or other information publicly available.
We are aware that there has been some speculation in the local community about what the new users are doing, including a rumour that it is, or will be a mosque. We have been told that this is not the case: there is a prayer room within the building, but we have been informed that the function of the building is to be a health education centre.
Friends of Hough End Hall will continue to maintain a watching brief over the building. Our concern is still that this asset, with so many local memories, is made available for the benefit of the community, and that its heritage value is preserved and promoted. However, since we will not be responsible for the building ourselves, our project will run at a lower level. We are exploring the possibility of erecting a public information board as a lasting source of infomriation about the Hall. We are likely to wind up the charitable company but continue in existence as an unincorporated community association. We will also remain available to assist the current owners where possible and where this role is consistent with our “watchdog” function.