Bury Council has been accused of prioritising tourism over learning, as a further bid to stop a controversial sculpture centre was thrown out.

In a lively debate at Bury Town Hall last Wednesday, Labour councillors voted down a petition which called on the council to reverse the decision to install a sculpture centre at Bury Library.

The petition, which was presented to the meeting by Sue Smith, from the Save Bury Library group, had collected 2,955 signatures, which meant it could be debated again.

She said: “Plans that have been described by the art gallery manager as a ‘no brainer’ and of which he does not ‘expect to receive widespread support and positive reviews’ have left people appalled and feeling downright insulted.

“What does it say to our children when preference is given to an arts-based tourist attraction rather than learning, literacy and knowledge?”

Council leaders were also asked whether they had a strong enough business plan to back claims that it will be a success, and whether they were basing the plans solely on the expertise of Tony Trehy, the arts and museums manager.

In reply, council leader Mike Connolly said a business plan had not been drawn up because the model of international partnership and external funding is an extension of the business model operated by Bury Art Museum in its project exporting exhibitions to China.

He said: “It won’t be unsuccessful. The borough’s arts manager is a leading expert in the field, with extensive contacts and network experience in international art.”

Cllr Connolly also said the sculpture centre would not add to the running costs of the library and that the staffing of the centre would be achieved by a small alteration of staffing patrol rotas. The petition was voted down by Labour councillors, with Conservative councillors expressing their frustration at the decision.

Tory Cllr Roy Walker said: “I hope one day I am alive to see this decision reversed and go back to having a library befitting a town of nearly 200,000 people.”

Labour Cllr Jane Lewis, cabinet member for leisure, tourism and culture, added: “No council wants to cut services, let alone at a much-loved library, but in the circumstances we are operating under we have no choice.

“We have worked hard to keep libraries open and we have not closed any libraries. I feel we have no option but to continue with the sculpture centre.”

The sculpture centre is set to open in May.