OMBC leader defends sale of Brownhill Visitor Centre

A VISITOR centre being used as an exhibition space is set to go because the building housing it is being auctioned off.

The property including Brownhill Visitor Centre on Wool Road in Dobcross will go under the hammer on February 19.

It has been stressed that Lime Kiln Café, which occupies the ground floor, will not be affected by the sale.

However, the Independent can reveal the space occupied by the former visitor centre above can be transformed as Oldham Council has decided not enough people visit it.

Cllr Sean Fielding, Oldham Council leader and cabinet member for economy and enterprise, said:

“A decision has been taken to sell our interest in this site as part of our wide-ranging review of our property and assets.

“Due to our financial challenges and rising demand we are having to examine every area where savings can be found in order to protect frontline services.

“In this case, our costs for maintaining this building, including draining the septic tank daily, is massively exceeding our rental income.

“The former Brownhill Visitor Centre has been a small exhibition space upstairs in this building for a couple of years now, and it had poor footfall.

“However, I do want to reassure people that the work of our Countryside Ranger, who used to be based there, is continuing as usual across the district.

“The building has been prepared for an auction on the basis of the Lime Kiln café tenants remaining in place.

“The tenants do, of course, have an option to bid themselves, or they will need to have discussions with any new owner who will also be responsible for the future public toilet provision.”

OMBC’s decision has been criticised by local councillors.

Saddleworth South councillor Jamie Curley said: “I’m really disappointed about this. It is a real asset to the community and I have used it a lot myself.

This seems to be yet again a snub for Saddleworth with a great asset being sold off for a developer to cash in on the location instead of providing a much needed family attraction.

“Uppermill is more than just a ‘night time economy’ destination but selling off attractive family orientated assets like this is a slap in the face. Yet again Saddleworth is a cash cow rather than a community to be nurtured.

“I will certainly be pressing the case for this to remain a community asset.”

At least £225,000 will secure the property, which also comes with ‘a car park that holds 10-15 vehicles, a canopied walkway area and a detached toilet block.’

It also includes a pump house situated on the opposite side of the car park from the main building.

Sale documents revealed the owners of the Lime Kiln – Mark and Louisa Stewart – pay £9,000 a year in rent so they can be housed under the Visitor Centre.

However, the authority is set to include a buy clause if the tenant vacates the building and the site is not developed within three years.

Yet the Independent has learned the couple, who live in Scouthead, has requested an extension of the lease until 2030.

Auctioneers Pugh describe Brownhill as a, ‘freehold detached two storey stone built property which is being sold part let to a café by way of a lease which is holding over at a rent of £9,000 per annum.

‘The property being sold includes a car park to the front plus detached toilet block. The site area is approximately 712 sq m (815 sq yds).

‘Part of the property is let by way of a five-year lease at a rent of £9,000 per annum from 27th July 2012 granted to two individuals and trading as the Lime Kiln Café.’

Brownhill Countryside Centre, which the whole building is called, is part of an auction on February 19 at the AJ Bell Stadium in Salford.

5 Replies to “OMBC leader defends sale of Brownhill Visitor Centre”

  1. Have you been in the Visitor Centre? The last time I went in it contained a few leaflets, no staff, no local walk information, no wonder the footfall was poor. I live local and had no idea that it could be used for exhibition space. Looks to me that it has been deliberately run down. But this is happening in Tameside too, with the closure of Ashton Library this weekend.

  2. My main concern is for the future business safety of Limekiln Cafe. Wouldn’t it have been nice for a change to see OMBC offer the option of a rental lease to Limekiln owners to extend there very popular cafe.
    Cllr Curley hits it on the button. Saddleworth is just a cash cow for Oldham. Without any thought or consideration for the wellbeing of local businesses

  3. Absolutely agree with the comments of cllr Lucas. Oldham Council doesn’t care one bit about Saddleworth! only the money they raise from it! Get rid of Sean Fielding!

  4. Cllr Keith Lucas is completely wrong – why on earth should a private Saddleworth business be subsidised by Oldham Council?

    The real problem with the Brownhill Visitor Centre is that the current tenants, Limekiln Café, have all the advantages of the site (car park, toilets, etc.,) but with none of the responsibilities – and at a very low rent of just £9k a year – 50% of true market value. Therefore it makes sense that the council has decided to sell the property.

    If the building’s upkeep is a drain on council resources then it’s also a drain on OUR council tax, which means that we, as the general public, are effectively subsidising a private café, however delightful it is.

    I suggest the café owners stop pleading poverty and bleating on about their hardships on social media, man up, and put a sensible bid in at a proper market rate.

    If they don’t, somebody else will.

  5. There is a way for this situation to challenged, but time is short.

    If the centre can be designated an asset of community value the Council must withdraw the property for sale for a six month period to allow the applicants to seek funding to take over the facility and retain it for community benefit.

    Google Asset of Community Value and get going. guys.

    Once the centre leaves the public domain it will never return

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