Government steps in over Harborough war memorial debate

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The Government - no less - has stepped into the debate over Market Harborough’s historic war memorial.

The First World War memorial was mentioned during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons this week.

First Secretary of State Damian Green, deputising for the Prime Minister, said the war memorial - attached to the town’s former Cottage Hospital in Coventry Road - was protected by its Grade II listing.

“Specific planning consent would be required to relocate the memorial as part of any future plans” he said.

The First Secretary of State had been responding yesterday (Wednesday) to a question about the war memorial posed by Harborough MP Neil O’Brien.

Mr O’Brien told the Mail: “I have escalated this issue to Prime Minister’s Questions in order to emphasise the importance of this to the officials in charge of regenerating the old hospital. They should know that our community expects a really good solution to be found to preserve the memorial. Hopefully the support of senior Government ministers will remind them that they need to do whatever is needed to provide a fitting future for the memorial.”

In his question in Parliament, Mr O’Brien had said: “Earlier this year a brilliant new hospital, St. Luke’s, opened in my constituency.

“But the old cottage hospital, which it replaced, features an important war memorial.

“Does the Minister agree that however that old building is redeveloped by the NHS, our war memorial must be preserved in a fitting way – so that future generations can remember the sacrifices of those who came before us?”

Mr Green replied: “I think perhaps particularly at the moment, when we are about to commemorate the centenary of the terrible battle of Passchendaele, it’s very important that we consider the issue of war memorials.

“In this case I understand that the war memorial is protected by an Historic England Grade II listing, and so specific planning consent would be required to relocate the memorial...I hope that will provide the protection he and his constituents need.”

Market Harborough’s memorial is rare because it mentions all 1,658 local people who fought in World War One, not just the ones who were killed.

The names are on marble plaques in a decorative portico attached to the old hospital.