Wigan Borough Environment & Heritage Network

Meeting minutes

Monday 6 July 2020, 10:30am, via Zoom

David Shallcross (DS), Leigh Ornithological Society, also Chowbent … (Chair)
Joe Taylor (JT), Billinge Historic Society
Glenys McClellan (GM), Leigh Family History Society
Neil Forshaw (NF), George Formby Society
Julie Hotchkiss (JH), Extinction Rebellion, Wigan
Peter Taylor (PT), Wigan Civic Trust
Lydia Helsby (LH), Minutes Secretary, Wigan Civic Trust
From 10:45 Adrain D’Arcy (AD), CRESS
From 11:00 Kerrell Walley (KW), Climate Change Programme Manager, Wigan Council

Ian Bowler, Friends of the Earth
Richard McDonald, Wigan Council
Jim Meehan, Friends of Standish Recreation Ground
Eileen Walsh, BEAT
Peter Goodwin, Tradition Films
Avis Freeman, Leigh Soroptomists
Alex Miller, Wigan MBC
Julie Clarke, Wigan MBC

Zoom features quickly reviewed.

Introduction and welcome from Chair.

Minutes of last meeting – Proposed correct by Joe Taylor, seconded by Peter Taylor, agreed by all.

Matters arising – none

Education for Young People – Adrian D’Arcy

AD described how Leigh Spinners’ Mill could be used as a venue for teaching children history, the work that used to go on there, how energy was generated and how this has changed through the decades – and would be evolving going forward. Could write a lot of material on the various architectural features for use by teachers. Floor 5 of the Mill is yet to be developed and has potential, but the material would be suitable for other sites and there is the potential to run lessons/events in Central Library Leigh and at Wigan Life Centre.

AD has written to several primary schools, but no reply so far, not likely to be high on their agenda, thinking of how they are adapting to deal with the limitations due to the pandemic. He had also spoken to Peter Rawlinson about the prospects.

DS described that Leigh Ornithological Society has a Young Birders Group with its own website, and volunteer teachers go into schools to give lessons, which are always well-received. They also lead walks around local reserves. AD commented that young people see the passion of people like that, as with the Mill, hopefully it would help engender passion in the young people.

Naturalising the borough

Julie Hotchkiss was able to describe what this meant prior to the arrival of Kerrell. Basically, it means trying to restore areas of land to a more natural state, for instance not using excessive weedkillers and cutting schedules for verges, allowing flowering of species which are food for insects. DS described how Warrington had done this along long stretches of roads, the wildflowers looked beautiful and supported a range of insects. GM added that “weed control” had been down the avenues, which was need as vegetation was coming up along pavements, and weeds could block gullies leading to flooding.

When KW arrived she was able to relate back following discussions with Parks and Street Scene colleagues – have plans to naturalise 100 areas within the borough, in conjunction with Lancashire Wildlife Trust. They are looking at phasing out herbicides, plans are being drafted and will be shared. The pandemic has provided an example of not mowing verges that has taken it a step further than the Council intended. They have to strike a balance with the public who are concerned about the aesthetic more than the wildlife. The Council needs to engage with the public, explain why they are doing what they are doing to residents. The intention is to manage land to create species-rich grasslands, based on surveys of the plants there. They are getting the “In bloom” providers to change the planting – moving away from annual, to a more sustainable mix of perennial species. They are on-track to plant 80,000 trees this year. JH asked if there was a target to plant a lot more e.g. a million trees in 3 years? KW said the target would be to achieve 100,000 viable trees per year (i.e. a million by 2030). GM asked if they were working with City of Trees – yes. DS asked if all the current sites had been identified – KW replied that feasibility studies were being done. Some areas of grassland act as a carbon sink, so they would not be just planting trees in bulk, which groups members were relieved about, remembering previous loss of grassland and shading out species below. She assured us there would be a broad spectrum of land use. JH asked about how local resources would be used to avoid have to buy in lots of saplings, etc and maybe create green apprenticeships? KW added that they were intending to source from within the borough, e.g. kids collecting acorns, etc.

#Safe Streets Save Lives

building on changing behaviour, e.g. more people walking and cycling during lockdown and a desire to build on that, a public consultation was underway – with interactive map for people to identify and suggest where they thought needed action/improvement. LH commended the new A49 link road and GM added that she had been in the initial planning for that many years ago. Some specific roads of concern and accidents were mentioned.

Citizens’ Juries

JH described what they are briefly – i.e. representatives of the community chosen at random, like a jury in a court case, the jurors given information from experts and a consensus being reached on way ahead. Had been used for difficult issues that were cross-politics like abortion in Ireland. Leeds had recently run a large scale Citizen’s Jury to good effect and JH knew that Wigan Council had been looking into it. Some members questioned whether the input given would be impartial or just from groups with a specific agenda to push. JH gave examples, e.g. if it was electric cars you would get someone to talk about the practicalities of having charging points around the borough. People would be given facts not opinions. LS thought politics would take over the “facts” as they had done with the pandemic.

KW was able to report that there were no plans to pursue them at the moment – they flag up some legal issues. They did have a Big Listening Event in 2018 to inform the new Wigan Deal Plan 2030

Update from KW on Climate Change Strategy

She has been rewriting the Climate Change Strategy – would like to have something soon as we are approaching one year since the council declared a climate emergency. The pandemic has slowed down work. There is a National Committee focusing on Green Recovery – looking at how to capitalise on the change in working patterns, reduction in business miles that has happened. New employment in energy efficiency.

AOB: DS asked KW could ask Martin Purcell if a Zoom meeting could be arranged for the Greenheart Group. GM asked if he was in charge of Haigh Hall as some trees needed moving off the railway track.

Next meeting – 3rd August 2020, 10:30am via Zoom