A HOTEL giant today dashed rumours that its exciting Wigan town centre development is foundering.
Rumours have been circulating that proposals by Whitbread-owned Premier Inns to transform the former police HQ into an 80-bedroom hotel had stalled.
Rival developers were said to be looking to redevelop the building for student flats.
But the hotel chain confirmed today that contracts for the long-awaited scheme, including a large extension to the rear of the five storey building, have been signed.
And they would shortly take possession of the prominent site, start building works in June ready for an official opening on February 14.
Acquisition manager for Whitbread Hotels and Restaurants, Nick Johnston, said: “Wigan has been on our target list for a long time and I am delighted to bring the Premier Inn success story to the town. Not only is this planning approval great news for our customers but it is the right result for the town as our investment will create approximately 35 new jobs, attract additional visitors to the area and support key businesses in the town.
“Wigan adds another quality location in the North West and we will move quickly to get the hotel built and the doors open for our customers – investing in Wigan to create new jobs and make the town an even better place to visit and do business.”
A spokesman for the council’s planning committee said: “Our understanding that the Premier Inn proposal to convert the building into a hotel remains. In fact, we have just agreed an amendment to the original consent to enable this project to proceed.”
Economic development chiefs at the town hall are anxious to see the former police headquarters - one of Wigan’s biggest remaining eyesores - see new commercial life.
The ugly ’70s concrete edifice in Harrogate Street, which has been boarded up for years since police GMP decamped to Robin Park, will be given a new look with special cladding to soften its look.
The site has been the focus of an ongoing development battle since being sold off by the force. A recent scheme to build apartments became ensnared in a dispute about what percentage of affordable homes the project could sustain commercially.
Two years ago the site was the focus of a plan by boutique hotel chain Sanguine, which incorporates a chain of restaurants by celebrity chef Marco Pierre White.
Rare and protected bats were long believed to have colonised the building, but a wildlife survey for the hotel group has now cleared the way for re-construction, although it makes recommendations about external lighting so as not to affect the Daubenton’s water bats which use the river Douglas behind as a feeding habitat.
Site owner Goldcrest Properties is backing the application. Chief Executive Officer Michael Collins believes that it could be a trigger for further redevelopment opportunities for the site if give the green light by the council.
Premier Inns is involved in a big expansion programme, having been named Global Budget Hotel of the Year at the Global Travel Awards along with the Best CSR Programme title in the Business Travel Awards.