By Zoe Shackleton and Tony Earnshaw
THE future of Dewsbury Park Mansion is uncertain after a community group pulled out of plans to try and save the building.
The museum in Crow Nest Park was closed in 2016 due to funding cuts, but volunteers soon set up a campaign group in a bid to take it over.
Members of the Dewsbury Park Mansion Community Hub (DPMCH) wanted to resurrect the Grade II listed mansion, museum and cafe by splitting it between community and commercial use.
But the group claims that “a lack of pro-active support from Kirklees” has meant they can no longer continue with their plans.
Gill Young, group secretary, said: “The directors of DPMCH have reluctantly decided that they would withdraw their application for a community asset transfer of the mansion in Crow Nest Park in Dewsbury in order to develop the building as a community hub for the park users.
“This is because of a lack of pro-active support from Kirklees Council, lack of consistent communication and fundamental changes in the funding opportunities for heritage buildings. The committee is devastated after three years of hard work to save the mansion, including its cafe – a well-loved facility for park visitors, dog walkers, families, Park-runners and many others – that we have to make this decision.
“It has taken hundreds of volunteer hours and tireless effort to try and make it a community hub.”
The group made an asset transfer request to the council, which was accepted, and a business plan was presented.
Mrs Young added: “Many meetings with various and different council officers were held. Lines were drawn, plans were made and deadlines set. The issues were rehearsed as different officers seemed to take the lead.
“However with a proposal that broke the mould of other asset transfers as it offered a completely new use for the building, real action and support seemed to be lacking.
“During this period, the funding opportunities have substantially changed for buildings such as the mansion. This means that acquiring funds for the renovation and adaptation of the building is unlikely.
“Having received funding from the Architectural Heritage Fund to obtain resources to assess the viability of the project, we are drafting our report to them.
“Given the evidence we have, the project is not viable. And so the painful decision was reached at a meeting earlier this month.
“A frustrated group of volunteers can no longer battle against the passive resistance and lack of actual help that would make our objectives real.”
Coun Graham Turner, cabinet member for corporate, said: “We are deeply disappointed that this transfer is no longer going ahead. Officers and I have worked hard to try and deliver this project over the past three years.
“Due to its size, location and listed status, Dewsbury Park Mansion was the most ambitious and difficult transfer we have had to date. Local volunteers are crucial to our communities and since 2013 we have supported and successfully transferred 21 assets to community organisations across Kirklees.”