Wigan Borough Environment & Heritage Network

Meeting minutes

10.30 a.m. Monday 8th November 2010 at Tudor House, Hindley

Present - John O'Neill (Greenheart Partnership Board), Peter Goodwin (Mirabilis Media), Geoff Jones (Astley Green Colliery Museum), Jackie Roberts (Bridleways), Tom Price (Wigan Civic Trust), Gordon Winnard (Lancashire Irish Heritage Centre), Vincent France (Atherton), Neil Forshaw (George Formby Society), Tony Bishop & David Shallcross (Leigh Ornithological Society); Ken Barston (Stubshaw Cross Residents Group), Richard Sivill (Atherton Heritage).

Apologies - Joe Taylor (Billinge History/Heritage Society), Avis Freeman (Leigh Soroptimists), Mary Pennington (Wigan Archaeology Society), Dave Wilson (Leigh Ornithological Society), Peter Taylor (Wigan Civic Trust)

The Chair John O'Neill welcomed everyone to the meeting.

Steve Thompson - Wigan Central Area Action Plan

The meeting started with a presentation by Steve Thompson - Planning Officer at Wigan Council - about the Wigan Central Area Action Plan.

The Wigan Central Area Action Plan is a Development Plan document with the Local Development Framework. It is a detailed Policy/Allocation Document and a Specific Area Based Plan. It will become a Statutory Plan eventually, but is in consultation phase at the moment.

The area covered (shown on map on back of the questionnaire circulated at the meeting) is not just the town centre, but also includes Wigan Pier Quarter, Eckersley Mill, Gas Holders and old police station off Darlington Street, Wallgate industrial area, and a bit of the area north of the town centre up to the edge of Mesnes Park. The plan is a comprehensive way of looking at the whole town centre and fringe areas.

The plan will promote Wigan as the main Sub-Regional Centre within the Borough of Wigan. The focus of the town centre has shifted slightly from the Galleries to the Grand Arcade and the new Wigan Life centre. The plan aspires to be an example of Localism (part of the new Government agenda) with influence from local people and input from various groups. It's about Regeneration - promoting Wigan and attracting investment. It aims to provide certainty to developers.

The plan sets 2026 as a date to look forward to. The work was launched in Summer 2010. Already spoken with local school kids. It's a long-term project - 18 months/2 years. The aim is for publication of draft in 2011 - possibly a Public Enquiry and adoption in late 2012. Currently gathering evidence leading to an 'Issues Paper'.

The meeting then asked Steve questions:

Tony Bishop asked about funding. Steve replied that there was likely to be less public sector 'pump priming' than there had been in recent years. He mentioned the idea of a 'roof tax', which other authorities use - a levy on developers of new houses. The aim is to build 1,000 new houses per year in the Borough.

Geoff Jones questioned Wigan Town centre being the focus to the detriment of other areas such as Atherton, Tyldesley etc. Steve replied that the Council is putting some emphasis on a 'central core' through Hindley and Ince to Leigh and Atherton, which does include many deprived areas.

Richard Sivill made several points. Leigh and Atherton have plenty of spare housing capacity so he questioned the need for extra housing. There are problems with transport and parking in Wigan town centre, which make Bolton, Manchester and the Trafford Centre more attractive. Already lots of supermarkets in area - do we really need any more? Leigh Rugby League club struggles to attract crowds to its large new stadium in Leigh Sports Village and the swimming pool there has had an adverse impact on other pools in the area.

John O'Neill made a point that we need to make Wigan town centre attractive to population from around Borough, then they will come in and spend their money and that will help fund/sustain the centre.

Tom Price asked about the proposed ring road extension from New Market Street. Steve Thompson replied that this project was now off the government-funding list and won't be going ahead in the near future.

The meeting thanked Steve for his presentation.

Minutes of Last Meeting

No corrections.

Matters Arising

A booklet by Oxford Archaeology about Roman Wigan, which was supposed to have been published after their investigations during the construction of the Grand Arcade, had lost its funding when the company running the Grand Arcade went into temporary receivership. Wigan Archaeological Society had been encouraged to apply for £1,500 from the Council and now other monies have also been found which will fund Oxford Archaeology to print a small publication for the public which will be supplied free to schools.

Red Rose Forest are asking if Network members would like to get involved in interpretation for the Lightshaw Meadows site. They are running a workshop next Autumn. John O'Neill handed out forms from Red Rose Forest, which ask for expressions of interest in getting involved.

Cultural Partnership update from their meeting. Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust have printed a review of the 2010 Wigan Cultural Partnership Convention. Copies were circulated to the meeting. Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust are organising the Cultural Olympiad in 2011. This will include Arts and Crafts as well as sports. This will reflect the original Olympic ideas of Art and Sport together. Heritage and Environment seeking to become involved. Zenno Vattev had given a report about the support he has given community groups when fundraising - the monies raised have exceeded targets.

Local Development Framework is now in its final draft for public to comment. It is available to view or download online at www.wigan.gov.uk/ldfcorestrategy. It will replace the UDP - Unitary Development Plan for the Borough. It is over 100 pages long. Sections of particular interest to the network are pages 34-36 Policy SP5 about Greenheart, pages 72-76 Policy CP9 about green infrastructure, pages 78-81 about Policy CP11 about Historic Environment and pages 82-84 Policy CP12 about Wildlife and Habitat.

The Boer War Memorial. Fundraising to have a replica statue made and installed back in its original site in Mesnes Park is going well.

Leigh Ornithological Society presentation

Tony Bishop (vice-chair of LOS) assisted by David Shallcross (Chair of LOS) gave a presentation about the group.

LOS was formed in 1972 in response to concerns about threats to bird habitats, particularly the way the site that is now Pennington Country Park was being filled with domestic rubbish and coal tips, plus the threats from youths and men with dogs and guns. Dave Wilson was one of the founder members. The group succeeded in stopping the tipping and eventually enabled the establishment of the Pennington Flash Country Park.

LOS now has around 100 members. It covers a large area including Wigan, Leigh, parts of Bolton, Warrington and Salford. Approximate boundaries are the M6, M62, and M66, but includes some of Bolton Moors. Group welcomes the emergence of Greenheart. It carries out a lot of educational work, produces newsletters and gives talks. The society is open to all. They have a website at: www.leighos.org.uk

Presentation showed images of birds that can be seen locally. Then discussed how we can help birds - feeding them in winter and early spring, attaching bells to cats.

LOS donate £200/300 to feeding stations in Pennington. Have a monthly programme of talks through winter months in Derby Room, Turnpike Centre, Leigh. Group does their own records of bird sightings (going back to 1970s) and share the information. Also promote the British Ornithological Trust's annual census of birds.

Pennington Flash Country Park opened in 1981 and is over 1,000 acres. Dave Wilson produced a booklet in 1985 'Birds and Bird watching at Pennington Flash'. It's easy to become a birdwatcher - just need binoculars. £100 for good pair, £10/20 for OK pair and good second-hand ones can often be found in charity shops and car boot sales.

Jackie Roberts asked about the swans at Pennington Flash and the problems last winter with the lake icing over. David Shallcross pointed out that the bread and cake we often use for feeding birds contains too much salt for them.

Richard Sivill asked about other bird watching groups in the Borough. David Shallcross replied that there was a branch of the RSPB in Wigan with a couple of dozen members.

The meeting thanked Tony and David for their presentation.

Third Sector Development Update

John O'Neill and Joe Taylor had met Lynn Kay (Wigan Council) and Pamela Ball (Wigan and Leigh CVS) and WL&CT are drawing up a Volunteer Strategy. CVS have identified 1,500 active voluntary organizations across Wigan Borough.

Any Other Business

Neil Forshaw handed out copies of his 'Newton in Makerfield' heritage calendar for 2011.

Richard Sivill distributed a flier advertising a talk he is giving on 'Christmas traditions and customs' on Wednesday 8th December at 11am at Dam House in Astley.

Next Meeting

Monday 20th December 10.30am at Tudor House