Wigan Borough Environment & Heritage Network

Meeting minutes

held on Monday 18 th September 2006 at the Wigan History Shop

Present: Joe Taylor (Billinge History & Heritage Society), Fred Holcroft (Winstanley), Tom Glover (Wigan Archaeological Society), Michael Walker, Philip Butler & John Hesketh (L&CT), Peter Guy (Gin Pit Village), Emma Scott (Community Empowerment Programme), Chris Coffey (Chair St Helens Heritage Society), John O’Neill (Wigan MBC) Carol Littler (Local History Researcher) Tony Hilton (NW Catholic History Society, Friends of Wigan Boer War Memorial) Joe Taylor chaired the meeting; Emma Scott took notes for the minutes.

Welcome: Tony Hilton, Carol Littler, Michael Walker & Chris Coffey Apologies : Geoff and Marion Brown, John Wigan, Barbara Rhodes, Norma Ackers & Irene Nicholson

Minutes of the last meeting: Accepted as True and Accurate

Matters Arising: None Chris Coffey, chair of St Helens Heritage, introduced himself then spoke about the benefits, in relation to best practise etc. to be gained from a proposed get-together of the Heritage Networks from several adjacent municipalities that is being held at Room 10, St Helens Town Hall, 2 pm, October 13 th. All members of the Wigan Heritage Network are invited to this meeting. Please confirm with Chris prior to the meeting.

L&C Trust Visioning: Philip Butler spoke at length about progress to date. He explained that this Visioning is not strictly for the next 10 years but an agenda for looking at how best the Municipal Authority can work with the public on cultural issues from now on. The stakeholder group meeting 18/08/06 clearly demonstrated a need to involve the public on a wider basis. It is hoped that various Action Plans can be formulated by end of (calendar) year. So far, these themes have been identified by L&CT to develop as possible Action Plans

It was emphasised that the Vision isn’t set in concrete, so there is plenty of time to alter and work in partnership. Joe Taylor responded to Philip’s report by saying that he had spoken to most if not all of the community representatives present at the Stakeholders Meeting 18/8/06 and that the predominant feeling was one of dissatisfaction and concern. It was felt by the heritage community that L&CT were dictating the course of the Visioning process and then seeking approval for their concepts at forums of their choosing rather than seeking the concerned public’s opinions first and than basing their forward planning upon them. He cited an instance from the initial round of heritage visioning consultation, held at ‘The Way We Where’ when it had been clearly stated that the public’s primary concern regarding heritage was not the presentation or preservation of artefacts, such as Wigan Pier, The History Shop and Trencherfield Mill, important as they undoubtedly are. For most of the Borough, museums and the like are not an issue but the continuous and wholesale destruction of local heritage occurring, due to a lack of statutory regulations to preserve what heritage items still remain in the Borough, most certainly is. Rather than L&CT taking up this fundamental concern and making it the main theme of their Visioning process, it had been overlooked and was not mentioned at the Stakeholders meeting 18/08/06. Michael Walker explained that L&CT has a budget of £500,000 per annum, that its responsibilities to the maintenance and upkeep of the buildings and properties under its control exhausted most of if not the entire budget and that it did not have the statutory authority to protect heritage items from development applications. After some discussion, it was agreed that it is a relatively inexpensive enterprise to identify and document everything that constitutes ‘Heritage’ across the entire Borough; that such an enterprise would, by necessity, involve the public working in close conjunction with L&CT, to everyone’s benefit; that it would take several years to conclude the project and that once achieved, L&CT and the Public Sector could then consider working in partnership with other Council Departments, such as Planning, to formulate appropriate statutory regulations to protect and conserve items of heritage significance. It was pointed out that the Heritage Network was formed as a forum for L&CT and other Council Departments to develop, in particular, the L&CT Visioning process, in relation to Heritage, with representatives of heritage concerned organisations and interested members of the public. There are three tiers involved – Council, L&CT and Public Sector - and the public tier undertook to widen the scope of the Heritage Network by developing the Heritage Network link on the Community Empowerment website (www.wiganvoices.com/heritage.htm) and designing a poster about the Heritage Network to for display at Libraries throughout the Borough. Heritage Network as it stands now : Emma Scott, co-ordinator of the Community Empowerment Program, reported that it is now appropriate for the Wigan Heritage Network to have representatives on the Culture Thematic Partnership, which does not at this stage have any heritage representatives. As time is now pressing for nominations to the Thematic Partnerships, John Hesketh undertook to report back to concerned parties ASAP on the L&CT position regarding Heritage Network representation on the Culture Thematic Partnership.  

Other Business: The Wigan Dialect DVD being produced by Billinge History/Heritage Society in conjunction with Richard Donald Lewis (author of The Road From Wigan Pier & The Billingers) should ready for preview by the end of the month. L&CT have provided photographs for this production. A letter will be sent to all the schools in the Borough regarding this DVD and a preview night will be arranged in due course.

Next Meeting : Monday October 30 th History Shop 11 am.