STALYBRIDGE will benefit as a multi-million-pound building which features brand new college facilities and a ‘state-of-the-art’ public library is to open in Ashton.
As part of the plans, the opening hours of the Astley Cheetham Art Gallery in Stalybridge will be increased to ensure residents have access to exhibitions after the closure of Ashton’s Central Art Gallery.
The Tameside One building on Wellington Road, which has been built as part of the council’s ambitious Vision Tameside project, became operational on Monday, February 25.
But as part of the plans, the historic Central Art Gallery will be converted into town hall offices for 150 council staff.
The existing library service has moved into Tameside One under the new name of Ashton Library.
Tameside One will also house a number of other services, including a 7,000 square metre Advanced Skills Centre for Tameside College, which also launched in February.
On March 4, Ashton Library and a one-stop shop for public services also opened.
The new joint public service centre will house the council’s customer services and welfare rights alongside Citizens Advice and the Cash Box Credit Union, as well as Jobcentre Plus.
Bosses say the new retail space for Wilko’s is due to open later in the year.
The library was originally built from money bequeathed by George Heginbottom JP and designed by architects John Eaton and Sons in Victorian Gothic style.
Council leader Brenda Warrington said: “The move to Tameside One and the whole Vision Tameside project is now beginning to have legs.
“I know all the library staff are very much looking forward to an arrangement where they’re going to get a state-of-the-art library which is going to be fantastic for the people who use the service.”
She added they hoped by making the library more convenient to access the number of people using it would increase.
However, a report to cabinet states the costs to repairs the structural integrity of the building ‘may be high’.
Currently £160,000 has been set aside from budget underspends in previous years to redevelop the gallery space in Stalybridge.
The gallery is currently open just two Saturdays a month, which would rise to 17 hours a week.
Emma Varnam, assistant director for operations and neighbourhoods, said: “We will be soon closing the doors of Ashton Central Library and quickly packing up boxes to move into the new Tameside One building.
“That will be a wonderful opportunity for this cultural activity to be right in the centre of Ashton.
“The Central Art Gallery is now not viable as a gallery but our mitigation for that will be extending the hours for Astley Cheetham Art Gallery.”
Cllr Leanne Feeley, cabinet member for lifelong learning, added it was a “real achievement”, taking into account the “difficulties and limitations that we’ve been working with”.
“I think it’s going to bring new life into the town and bring people right into the centre,” she said.
Plans have also been drawn up for the redevelopment of the Museum of the Manchester Regiment on the ground floor of Ashton Town Hall, which includes two spaces for art to be displayed.
Additionally, subject to a business case being drawn up, it is expected the Droylsden library service will move into Guardsman Tony Downes House on Manchester Road.
The former library building would then be sold to general a capital receipt for the council.
Dukinfield Library is proposed to stay in its current location.