Residents are demanding that 120-year-old Yorkstone paving is restored to a Stockport conservation area after being ‘ripped up’ by the council. Dodge Hill conservation area, in Heaton Norris, is described as ‘a rare surviving example of a local Victorian residential neighbourhood’, by the local authority and is home to the Grade II listed Pendlebury Hall.
But residents were aghast earlier this month when they arrived home to find that the historic paving on the south side of Dodge Hill had been dug up and replaced with modern flags – without any prior consultation. The council says that, while it would have preferred to have kept the original stone, its hand has been forced by ongoing thefts which have seen the condition of the route ‘deteriorating for a number of years’.
But a 43-signature petition was presented by resident Mike Cummins at a full council meeting this month. It calls for a full inquiry into why the stones were removed and a consultation with a ‘clear view to sympathetically restoring the original stones’ and a halt to any further removals.
According to Mr Cummins, thefts have not been an issue since CCTV was installed around two years ago and people have been expecting the historic stones to be reinstated – not entirely replaced.“The feeling is that the council felt it was easier to do the job and deal with the fallout, rather than go through the consultation,” he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
The 51-year-old research lecturer says the move has been a ‘direct breach’ of the council’s own maintenance plan for the area. “We can’t believe anything we are being told,” he said.
“There’s been a complete breakdown of trust. If they can’t follow written rules, their verbal assurances carry no weight at all.” Mr Cummins says it has had ‘a major impact’ on the mental health of people in the conservation area.
“There is a concern they are going to do this again,” he continued. “That they are going to turn up and do this on a Monday morning when people are out working and start damaging even more of the fabric of the place.
His concerns are shared by fellow resident Sarah Davenport, who has lived on Greenhalgh Street for more than 30 years. “My issue with the work which has now been nearly completed is two-fold,” she told the LDRS .
“Firstly, there has been fundamental dishonesty from the council. They have not followed their own rules whilst expecting the residents to follow them to the letter.”
And the trained archaeologist says her biggest issue is that ‘yet another slice of Stockport’s dwindling heritage has been destroyed by an uncaring council which does not value its own town’s rich history’.
She continued: “I understand that progress has to happen. But other historical towns manage to progress without finding it necessary to destroy everything which came before, leaving nothing for future generations to interact with except photographs of what used to be.”
Coun Grace Baynham, cabinet member for highways, has explained the council’s decision to remove the traditional stone paving. “It would have been the council’s preferred option to keep the original stone in place, but unfortunately repeated thefts have made this extremely problematic,” she said in a statement.
“While the thefts continue, we are left with less of the original stone on the footways. The thefts have meant the condition of the route on Dodge Hill has been deteriorating for a number of years, due to thieves stealing a significant number of the natural stone flags.
“The council has worked with the police to try and prevent this but regrettably the thefts are continuing.” Coun Baynham added that the council was undertaking a programme of planned repairs across the borough, including the reconstruction of footpaths on Dodge Hill, to make the route ‘safe and secure’.
“In addition, it has agreed a suitable specification with the Conservation Officer that can be maintained going forward and follows the Conservation Area Management Plan,” she continued. “The original stone is being stored securely and future options for its use can be discussed between the council and local residents.”