Call for inspector to look at town hall plan

John Austin
John Austin

An unhappy resident is calling for the controversial plan to transform Ashton Town Hall into a health centre to be looked at by the Government.

John Austin, from Ashton, wants a planning inspector to consider the case if permission is given to demolish the landmark building and put a medical hub in its place.

Ashton Town Hall

Ashton Town Hall

Mr Austin criticised Wigan Council for its lack of consultation with residents and said he has submitted many emails to officers asking questions about the proposal which have not been answered.

He also hit out at planners for allowing demolition to be carried out before the planning committee has considered the bid and queried the lack of transparency over why the town hall site was chosen over other local sites.

Like many residents who have spoken out against the proposal developed by One Partnership and Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group Mr Austin says he is not against a new health centre but thinks the old town hall is the wrong place for it.

He said: “People only became aware of the planning application in September about a week before the deadline for objections, but I contacted them at the end of August when I heard some work was being done at the town hall and the planning department said they had received no applications.

I was amazed when I found out the application was in. Since then, in my eyes, it has been one long trail of deceit

John Austin

“I was amazed when I found out the application was in. Since then, in my eyes, it has been one long trail of deceit. I contacted planning about the demolition notices and they said they wanted to demolish it during the school holidays. That was when the issue really exploded on social media.

“There are fundamental objections and people think there are much better places to put this centre, but I’ve written asking to see the trade-offs they did between the different sites and they’ve just ignored my questions. I don’t believe they have followed a logical and rigorous procedure. They should have come up with a list of sites and found a way of deciding which is the best, but when you ask to see it there’s nothing at all.”

The local authority has suggested the planning committee will have to make a decision before the application can be sent elsewhere.

However, there is the possibility of a Government minister appointing a planning inspector to review the case as this happened with the ultimately-unsuccessful attempt to overturn the permission to demolish Atherton’s Formby Hall.

Mike Worden, council assistant director for planning, said: “Mr Austin has made comments on the application for the health centre. He has asked that the council do not determine the application itself but refer it to the government for determination. There is, however, no provision for this, the council is the local planning authority and has to determine the application itself unless the government tells us otherwise, which would be highly unusual. The application will be considered by planning committee early in the new year.”