Delays to mill revamp plans

Eckersley Mills
Eckersley Mills

AMBITIOUS proposals to transform a historic mill still have the backing of Wigan Council despite continuing delays to the project.

Plans to convert the Eckersley Mills into a lavish development including 315 apartments, offices a hotel, shops and leisure facilities have stalled due to the complexity of the project and financial difficulties.

Despite this Wigan Council’s planning committee is expected to grant assistant director for planning and transport Mike Worden powers to grant a decision notice on completion of the agreement when it hears a report on the proposal tomorrow.

However, if the developers cannot finish the agreement within three months the application will need to come before the planning committee once again.

Planning permission was granted in 2010 for a massive renovation of the Victorian mill complex, some of which has fallen into disrepair but part of which is home to businesses such as a karting track and Wigan Roller Rink.

The plans call for restoration of the three main mill buildings located off Swan Meadow Road and several industrial sheds and buildings formerly used in its cotton-producing days.

However, a number of grade II-listed buildings, including a roller shop, a range of workshops, a triangular warehouse buildings and two former boiler houses, will need to be demolished.

The centrepiece of the scheme will be a huge marina basin, with reports suggesting it could become home to floating restaurants to create a miniature Amsterdam-style development.

Developers also propose to build a six-storey hotel, three offices buildings, around 20 town houses, a 14-storey tower block with 58 new homes in and a new arts centre behind the former Eckersley Offices and the attached Pirn Building.

Wigan Council has received five letters of objection to the scheme, including representations from Save Wigan, while conservation and history societies have supported the broad principle of development but raised some concerns about which 1800s details will be saved or destroyed.

In his report Mr Worden said: “I consider that these proposals strike a reasonable balance between the need to preserve the special historic interest of these important listed buildings and securing a long-term viable use for the site and the regeneration of the area.”

The renovation of Eckersley Mills has so far stalled over the terms of a legal agreement Wigan Council required the developers to enter into when planning permission was granted.

The applicant is required to meet the terms of a Section 106 agreement, which sets out work builders of large projects must complete to benefit communities affected by development.

The Eckersley Mill developers must make financial contributions to affordable housing provision, pay £2,500 towards monitoring a travel plan for five years and carry out maintenance and repair work on listed buildings.

The applicant must also provide open space and play areas and build a new link road before any development beyond the initial phase takes place.

The conditions were amended slightly by the planning committee in July 2013 to allow the development to progress in phases.

If the report is accepted at tomorrow’s planning meeting the applicant will have until July 14 this year to complete the terms of the Section 106 agreement.

If not, it will have to be looked at again by the committee.