Wigan Borough Environment & Heritage Network

Meeting minutes

10.30 a.m. 1st July 2013 at Tudor House, Hindley


John O'Neill (Greenheart Partnership Board), Joe Taylor (Billinge History Society), Avis Freeman (Leigh Soroptimists), Jackie Roberts (Bridleways), Richard Sivill (Atherton Heritage), Jan Johnston (LENDF), Neil Forshaw (George Formby Society), Mary Pennington (Wigan Archaeology Society), Ken Barston (Stubshaw Cross Residents Group), Vince French (Atherton), Geoff Jones (Astley Green Colliery Museum)

Linda Johnson (Wigan Museum of Life)

Glenys McClellan & Marge Harrop (Leigh Family History Society), David Shallcross & Tony Bishop (Leigh Ornithological Society), Peter Goodwin (Tradition Films), Tom Price and Peter Taylor (Civic Trust)
The Chair, welcomed everyone to the meeting


The Cultural Partnership is in the process of re-structure and change. There's an executive meeting 23 September to consider details.

John O'Neill is trying to get a quote for the necessary refurbishment of the Waterloo Memorial so that a grant application can be made. The Scouts Association, who hold the land rights, have no objections providing there is no cost to them.

The future of Haigh Hall depends on a private company being willing to take a lease in the next 12 months or so

The format for interpretation boards at Lightshaw Meadows has been agreed.

Minutes of the last meeting: True and accurate.

Matters arising: None

Linda Jackson, the newly appointed community history manager, introduced herself and gave a brief outline of her previous experience and future aspirations.

On the 19th of July the Rugby League World Cup will be on display at the MOFWL and there will be a Rugby League exhibition later this year.

The borough's artefacts are stored in five locations. It is hoped that in future they can be stored in one location with better access and facilities.

Richard Sivill welcomed Linda to Wigan and explained that from a community group perspective it is difficult to find anyone within Council who has any interest or responsibility for Heritage and that there is a lot to be done in this regard.

Members' reports:

Members who wish for reports to be included in the minutes will send in those reports digitally to the secretary.

Astley Green Colliery Museum- Report to the Environment and Heritage Network 1st July 2013.

The Structural Survey of the Headgear is now complete and paid for with thanks to English Heritage and Wigan Council's Small Grants. The estimated cost for repairs and ongoing conservation is £350,000, although with all the caveats in the report, £500,000 will probably be nearer the mark. A meeting with Rebecca Mason from HLF and Linda Jackson from W.L. & C T is planned for 1st August. The results from the meeting will decide where we go from here. If we take the HLF route then I plan a media appeal to obtain matched funding. The museum is the only physical evidence, apart from landscaped pit rucks, of a former mammoth industry in Lancashire and Cheshire.

We have recently taken delivery of a container to store our paint stocks safely. This will prevent any potential fires from spreading amongst the paints and solvents.
We have recently suffered several plant equipment failures all of which have been remedied or are nearing repair completion. The most serious problem was total disintegration of a generator switch. The switch was of Austrian origin and Sherlock Holmes couldn't have done a better job of finding another. Unfortunately without the generator we could not power up the two compressors necessary to operate the Winding Engine. Things should be back to normal shortly, with everything crossed!
School and educational visits, plus outreach activities, continue to grow and we like to think that visitors leave us with a far greater perception of coal mining from the earliest days to the present.

As all you gardeners know the recent weather has been a godsend for weeds and grass to explode into life. We think we have misplaced a couple of our members on the site but will need to climb a tree to see if they are lost in the undergrowth and wandering aimlessly about the place. We keep leaving food for them but to no avail as yet.
Perhaps the greatest, latest, threat to our existence has recently come to haunt us. We enquired with United Utilities about our water bills, which in truth had been over valued and we had been paying too much for a number of years. We will get some of the money back but then the bombshell that the Government has now allowed utility firms to charge a levy based on ground acreage and therefore water collection. As we have a substantial acreage, United Utilities want to charge us £2,000 annually. Scouts, Guides, and Community Centres appear to be exempt, but an appeal on our part drew a blank. We have placed the matter both with our local Councillors and Andy Burnham and await an outcome. With that sort of fee hanging over us, we will have to seriously consider our future if we do not obtain an alleviation.

Other business:

Leigh Ornithology Society are visiting schools and organising walks as part of their 'young birdies' programme.

Future meetings:

It was proposed that future meeting dates could be 12th August, 4th November, 16th December, 27th January, 10th March, 28th April, 2nd June, and 14th July


Minutes last AGM: True and accurate

Chairperson's report:

John O'Neill, the retiring chairperson, thanked members and council officers, particularly Martin Purcell and Mark Champion, for their contributions throughout the year.

He expressed sadness at the loss of those officers with which we have built productive relationships with over the years, including John Hill, Carol Tyldesley, Jason Kennedy and Yvonne Webb.

He thanked Peter Goodwin for his work and support in relation to the Heritage DVDs he has produced over the years and informed the meeting that he intends to continue sponsoring the annual Essay Competition and Celebration Evening.

He mentioned the partnerships and bodies we have a presence on and the new ones, such as Youth Zone, that we could support in future.

He expressed his opinion that in the future we need to identify how best to interpret the Borough's Heritage and Environment stories and to perhaps consider the possibility of further DVDs.

John concluded by thanking everyone present for the personal support they have given him in his term as chair of the network.

Avis Freeman presented John with a card and a small present as a token of our thanks for his contributions to the network over the years.


Avis took over as chair of the meeting.

There then ensued a discussion concerning the future and purpose of the network in the current climate of austerity, community engagement staff redundancies, cuts to Council budgets, and the scrapping of the Local Area Agreement system and the Duty to Involve.

It was decided that members should meet as soon as practical to have a private meeting concerning the future of the network.

Two dates were suggested, Monday July 29 or August 5, to be held in the Discovery Room at the Museum of Wigan life, starting at 10.30, subject to availability and members consent.