Battle lines drawn on park plans

Squires Hey Recreation Ground
Squires Hey Recreation Ground

Results of a residents’ consultation have backed plans to transform a Wigan recreation area but councillors have reaffirmed their opposition.

A survey conducted by neighbourhood forum Standish Voice (SV) suggests a majority would like to see the village’s Rec turned into a split play park with parking provision.

However, ward councillors George and Debbie Fairhurst are continuing their campaign to block the development plan despite the consultation results.

And the consultation process has attracted criticism for not being a “genuine reflection” of views.

Residents had been asked to consider three options; leave the Rec as it is, change it into a car park and play park or a play park only.

SV said it favoured the combined option but would go along with the result of the consultation when putting together its neighbourhood development blueprint to be submitted to the council.

Of 1,065 legitimate votes, the results show 60 per cent opted for the park and car park option, 23 for park only and 17 for leave it as it is.

An SV representative said: “The consultation overwhelmingly showed that people do not want to leave the Rec as it is.

“We will be taking all these results into account when formulating the policies in the draft Standish Neighbourhood Plan.

“How the park could look and what facilities it may have will be for further consultation – involving all sections of the community, but we believe this should include provision for children’s play, in line with the wishes attached to the original gift of the land to the council.”

Political group the Standish Independents (SI), represented by Couns Fairhurst, ran its own petition arguing the Rec is part of a covenant and should be left alone.

Coun George Fairhurst said: “A lot of people are really angry about this, we can all do a survey, can’t we? It’s the only greenspace where children can play. And no-one in my years as a councillor has come to me to say there’s nowhere to park. It was left in a covenant as a children’s play area and that should be it, in my opinion.

“Who is going to park there, for a start, and walk down to the shops (in the centre of Standish?) when you can already park at the Aldi supermarket?”

As a statutory body, Standish Voice has responsibility for drawing up a planning blueprint for the village until 2030.

A draft will be made available this summer and the final plan will be subject to a village-wide referendum.

Resident Sharon Holden said: “The consultation exercise was not a genuine reflection of the views of residents on this matter.

“The process was deeply flawed, rushed through in 21 days, giving opponents of the car park proposal insufficient time to counter SV’s pro car park campaign and the online voting method was insecure.”