BY CALUM FRASER firstname.lastname@example.org
Campaigners have made a breakthrough in their bid to save the second largest glasshouse in the UK.
The Save Avery (SA) campaign group has managed to register the Winter Gardens in Avery Hill as an Asset of Community Value (ACV).
The University of Greenwich has owned the site since 1992, but decided to sell it in 2014 and it has been on the market since.
ACV status gives land protection from development and it gives the community the chance to buy the Winter Garden before any sale can go ahead.
SA spokesman Terry Powley said: “This is a great step forward for the campaign to save this magnificent local treasure.
It is clearly a local community asset, and the community should play a major part in deciding its future.
“With the university set to move out in six months, the clock is ticking, and we need urgent action to secure its future.”
The Winter Garden is the second largest glasshouse in the country after the one at Kew Gardens.
A large Grade-II listed Victorian house sits next to the gardens.
Members of the Friends of Avery Hill Park group made the application to Greenwich council in August last year and a petition with almost 3,000 signatures was handed to the council in October.
Councillor Nigel Fletcher, who represents Eltham South ward, said: “Residents have demonstrated very clearly how much they value the Winter Garden as a community asset, so it’s only right it now has that formal status.
It has huge potential, but we need commitment from all parties to make it happen.”
The university reached stage one approval for a Heritage Lottery Fund bid before it withdrew and decided to sell the site.
The group wants the university and any potential buyer to commit to resurrect the HLF bid.
A University of Greenwich spokesman said: “The university remains committed to complying with our legal and statutory responsibilities for the Winter Garden and listed elements of the Mansion site.
“These responsibilities will be passed on to any future buyers. The Winter Garden will remain an asset for the local community to enjoy.
“We have recently carried out repair works to the Winter Garden and have just removed the scaffolding so that once again it is open for public access.
“Since 2010 the university has invested more than £1 million in conservation to keep the Winter Garden structure and roof sound and weatherproof.
“We continue to be in ongoing discussions with the council and Historic England to ensure that the Winter Garden is maintained.”
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