Campaign launched to save Harborough war memorial

Campaigner Cllr Barbara Johnson at the war memorial portico at the Cottage Hospital in Coventry Road, Harborough
Campaigner Cllr Barbara Johnson at the war memorial portico at the Cottage Hospital in Coventry Road, Harborough

Campaigners are urging people to back a petition calling on health chiefs to protect and preserve the Cottage Hospital war memorial and portico.

The memorial features four marble tablets inscribed with the names of 953 men who fought in the First World War and they are housed in a Grade II-listed portico.

Liberal Democrat district councillors Barbara Johnson, Sarah Hill and Phil Knowles, have launched a petition calling on the NHS to protect the site, to safely move it to an agreed new home and to secure the funding for its upkeep.

The campaign comes after news emerged in January that health bosses had removed the cost of rehousing the memorial from its budget for the new £6.8m St Luke’s Hospital project in Leicester Road.

Under previous £4m budget proposals, health chiefs had promised to meet the cost of the memorial’s future.

As part of the revamped St Luke’s, the Cottage Hospital is likely to be deemed surplus to requirements and sold.

The councillors said: “The NHS needs to accept its responsibilities. We hope everyone will sign it to show their support for the campaign.

“The NHS may feel they can ignore the matter and it will simply go away.

“Perhaps a significant number of signatures showing the public feeling in what is the centenary commemoration year of the First World War will force the message home.”

At Monday’s night’s Harborough District Council full council meeting, council leader Blake Pain indicated that the council could supply a site for the memorial but no specific locations have yet been mentioned.

Over the past few years, some have suggested the portico be moved to the Memorial Gardens in town.

Cllr Pain said: “I can confirm that the council has written to the NHS with a view to relocating the war memorial, potentially to council-owned land.

“I’m sure that many of you and residents feel that the NHS has a moral responsibility for preserving the memorial for the future, and we have said that this council will offer support to make this happen.

“This is an important focal point for remembrance within the town and honours the sacrifice made by many local people.

“As elected members we are all elected here by the people, to serve the people – and that is what this council will continue to place at the centre of all that it does.”

A spokesman for NHS Property Services said: “We would like to reassure the community again that in the event the district hospital is declared surplus by commissioners, the NHS will work with Harborough Council to agree a future home for the memorial so that it will be appropriately preserved and continue to remain within the community.

“All of the available options for funding the move will be explored.”