Paying again might be only way of saving this

Harborough district councillor Cllr David Beaty, who is the Armed Forces Champion for the district, inside the Cottage Hospital's war memorial portico in Coventry Road, Market Harborough
Harborough district councillor Cllr David Beaty, who is the Armed Forces Champion for the district, inside the Cottage Hospital's war memorial portico in Coventry Road, Market Harborough

A senior councillor has called for an open debate on whether public funds should be raised to save the town’s war memorial portico.

The Grade II-listed First World War memorial is located in a pillared portico in front of the Cottage Hospital in Coventry Road, Harborough.

Its future is in doubt because NHS bosses are refusing to pay for it to be moved to a new site when the Cottage Hospital is eventually – and inevitably – closed and sold by the NHS.

Now Cllr David Beaty, the Armed Forces Champion at Harborough Council, thinks an open debate is now needed to see if it can be saved once and for all.

He told the Mail: “I’m not happy with it being left there for an unknown future developer to deal with.

“I’m asking ‘can we, the people of Harborough, take this into our own hands again?’ Can we raise the money ourselves?”

Both the memorial and the hospital building were paid for by public subscription.

NHS chiefs say a condition of sale will be agreed by any new owner for them to safeguard the memorial. But many residents say that is too uncertain a future for it.

“What happens when a building like that is empty for a time, between owners?” asks Cllr Beaty. “It gets vandalised.”

Cllr Beaty’s question has bought a cautious – but not negative – response from some of the key players in the long-running memorial saga.

The Rev John Morley, chairman of the town’s branch of the Royal British Legion, said: “The district council could look at a plan to see how this could be done, and what it would cost.

He says it could be huge sum – tens of thousands of pounds – to fund it.

Hallaton man Denis Kenyon, co-founder of The Leicester City, County & Rutland At Risk War Memorials Project, added that a money-raising campaign of this kind would in theory be eligible for financial backing from his Lottery-funded group.

Mr Kenyon added: “With the recent centenary of the First World War, a big push and proper organisation – I’m sure it could be done.”

Lib Dem leader on Harborough Council, CllrPhil Knowles, a memorial campaigner, said: “It’s an intriguing suggestion, but it leaves a lot of questions to be answered.

“My first choice is still for the NHS to put the preservation of this site back in its budget.

“But I’m interested in any suggestion that looks at protecting the memorial.”