CAMPAIGNERS fighting a contentious medical centre are celebrating after the scheme was put on hold for a year.
Vale Royal Borough Council members claim the scheme to relocate The Rock Surgery in Frodsham to a purpose-built centre in Castle Park is a golden opportunity.
They say it will secure grants to restore the parkland and safeguard the future the run-down mansion by transforming it into a one-stop shop for community services.
But protest group Hands Off Our Park (Hoop) and Frodsham Town Council have fought to scupper the scheme.
They say building a medical centre in Castle Park would contravene a trust which prohibits any development on the Victorian estate, bequeathed to the community more than 70 years ago.
Last week, the borough sidestepped the trust by sanctioning a land-swap to exchange a section of parkland for the half-acre car park site controlled by the Castle Park Trust, of which the council members are trustees.
However, when borough councillors reconvened as trustees, they agreed to delay the plan for a year.
Leading trust member Cllr Les Ford said: 'We are giving the community a year to sort themselves out.
'I certainly did not want to force people's hands over this because if the medical centre goes somewhere else the trust would lose about £450,000.
'The pressure is now on everyone and we will certainly work to find a solution because building a medical centre in Frodsham was a key element of our bid to the North West Development Agency for a £1m grant we have secured to invest in Castle Park.'
Plans to create a one-stop shop in Castle Park House will go ahead, said Cllr Ford.
He added: 'Keeping an old house like this going is quite expensive, but if the one-stop shop is successfully developed, it should generate enough regular income to maintain the house.'
However, the decision was greeted with delight by objectors.
Protest leader Gordon Bell said: 'This is wonderful news for Hoop and for the 4,289 residents and users of the park who signed our petition.' However, Mr Bell said the proposals needed to be watched carefully.
He said: 'If a new site is not found for the surgery within a year, the original plan will be reactivated.
'Also, the borough council has still agreed to a land-swap, so building could still take place in direct contravention of the wishes of the original donors of the park.
'This sets a very dangerous precedent, as repeated application of this concept would leave the park wide open to future commercial development.
'The battle to save our park is by no means over and we will have to be vigilant and monitor the borough council's actions over the coming months.
'In particular, we must work closely with Frodsham Town Council and the Primary Care Trust to identify the best possible site for The Rock Surgery.'
Frodsham mayor Graham Bondi told residents at this week's annual town meeting finding an alternative site for the medical centre would not be easy.
However, he added: 'I'm sure people involved will try their best to come to a happy solution that will meet every-one's aspirations.'
Town and borough councillor Lynn Riley said Castle Park was one of the most important issues Frodsham has had to contend with for many years.
She added councillors were divided over the scheme as a whole and said: 'But some of us have worked towards achieving a Plan B to safeguard the future of Castle Park and prevent the medical centre being built in the park, while still enabling Frodsham to gain from the funding initiatives achieved by Frodsham Forward.
'What we have gained is greater than we were hoping for at last week's borough council and trustees meetings.
'What is more, Vale Royal and the Trust have put up the £450,000 to kick-start the funding.
'And it is us, the people of Frodsham, who get to drive this forward.'
She added: 'The town council has a great opportunity to deliver a fair result if we can find a location for the medical centre on land that is owned by the town council.
'We may have to consider areas of compromise to reach this goal, but let's remember what the price of failure will be.
'I know that, together, we can rise to this challenge.'
The trust will ask the council to provide a proportion of the £450,000 needed to secure the £1.5m grant awarded to restore the house.
Borough council leader Keith Mus-grave said: 'The next twelve months will see Castle Park House deteriorate and this is something the council feels strongly should not be allowed to happen.
'Castle Park House and gardens is an important part of Frodsham's heritage and future and, therefore, must be protected.'