Liberal Democrat councillors say the move to advertise Tapton House for sale or rent, with a view to bringing the empty Grade II* listed building back into use, came as a surprise.
Coun Paul Holmes said the Georgian House and its grounds were ‘an asset we should keep’, especially as Chesterfield is ‘not over endowed with such fine historic buildings’.
“We have raised the issue before – asking questions for example in Full Council about the declining state of repair of the building,” Coun Holmes said.
"We were reassured that all was well and there was no mention of selling this beautiful building off.
“I have suggested before that the obvious answer seemed to be to invest in the building and use it as an extension to the popular and successful small business offices at the next door Tapton Innovation Centre.”
Dating back to 1794, the building was built by local banking family, the Wilkinsons. It was then briefly occupied by railway pioneer George Stephenson (from 1838 to 1848) before becoming the home of the Markham family from 1873 to 1925.
Tapton House was subsequently given to the former Chesterfield Corporation by Charles Paxton Markham, who expressed the hope that it would be used for the benefit of the people of the town.
Councillor Dean Collins, Chesterfield Borough Council’s cabinet member for economic growth, said the council, like the people of Chesterfield, ‘want the best for Tapton House’ and that was why they were seeking an owner of tenant who would make ‘substantial investment’ in the building.
He added: “Tapton House and the surrounding area is a key heritage site in our borough, and we’re committed to finding a long-term solution that will safeguard and conserve its future.
“Since the college vacated the building three years ago, we have overseen its general repair and maintenance while looking for a suitable tenant – but are becoming increasingly concerned about incidents of vandalism and arson in the nearby Tapton Park.”
However, the decision has also been criticised by some residents.
Posting on our Facebook page, Dean Lewis said: “The council do a fantastic job of wasting our Council Tax yet they can't be bothered to put their thinking caps on and use this fabulous building in a way that benefits the people of Chesterfield.”
Other readers suggested using the building as Chesterfield’s museum and said it should remain in use for the people of Chesterfield. Others admitted the amount of work needed at the site meant a new owner was needed.