English Heritage wants Harborough war memorial to stay where it is

The war memorial portico at Harborough's Cottage Hospital in Coventry Road
The war memorial portico at Harborough's Cottage Hospital in Coventry Road

An expert from English Heritage has told Harborough District Council it would prefer Harborough’s listed war memorial and portico to stay where it is.

In a letter to the council, English Heritage’s Louise Brennan, a principal inspector of historic buildings, said any proposal to relocate the monument would need a “clear and convincing justification”.

One idea previously suggested by residents was to move the memorial from its Cottage Hospital site in Coventry Road to the Memorial Gardens, off The Square.

The future of the Coventry Road hospital is uncertain, because the NHS is likely to declare it surplus to requirements when a new hospital is built at the St Luke’s Hospital site in Leicester Road.

But Ms Brennan said planners would have to explain why moving the monument was the only viable option to secure the preservation of the Grade II-listed structure.

“Retaining the portico in its original position has several benefits,” Ms Brennan wrote in the letter, which was obtained by the Mail last month.

“The portico does derive some significance from its original position...while both financially and practically this is also a much simpler option.”

The Rev John Morley, chairman of the Market Harborough branch of the Royal British Legion, said he was also inclining towards the “stay put” option for the memorial, which lists the names of 1,658 men who fought in the First World War.

The Rev Morley said: “I think English Heritage’s concern is that if the memorial is to move, it might suffer damage. It is 100-years-old and of course attached to the front of a larger building, and moving it will be an awfully difficult task.”

He said he favoured a suggestion which had the memorial staying put on a new sheltered housing development, perhaps incorporating accommodation for retired servicemen.

Cllr Phil King, deputy leader of the council, said: “I just don’t think the NHS are in a hurry to solve this problem.

“They have got other fish to fry, and we don’t seem to be high on their pecking order.

Cllr Phil Knowles said there might not be a decision on the Coventry Road site until 2017 as the new St Luke’s site is not due to be finished until summer next year.

He said: “The NHS have a history of over-promising and under-delivering on this issue.

“At the moment there’s an air of uncertainty about the war memorial, and that’s down to the NHS.

“Unfortunately, I think it’s going to rumble on for years.

“The people of Harborough who were responsible for providing that memorial and portico deserve better.”