Clashes over recreation area upgrade

Couns George and Debbie Fairhurst at the Rec
Couns George and Debbie Fairhurst at the Rec

Proposals to transform a well-known Wigan recreation area are due to go to public consultation but have been criticised by local councillors.

Neighbourhood forum Standish Voice is asking for feedback on plans for the village’s Rec, located close to the main shopping area.

Three options are proposed; turning it into a car park and park, a park only or to leave it in its current state.

The group says the Rec playing fields are disused and the site could provide the answer to demands for more parking and public park space.

However, independent ward councillors George and Debbie Fairhurst have said they are wholeheartedly against any changes.

A Standish Voice spokesman said: “The Rec has been a valuable asset to the community for many decades but organised sports teams have not used it for around five years as it is now not fit for purpose.

“It is on a slope, has poor drainage, has no parking and is the wrong size for current league use.

“We believe if we don’t use it, we may lose it, so we think a new village park and small car park would be a fantastic addition to the village centre.”

After the consultation, the group will include the winning option in its Neighbourhood Plan which will be subject to a village referendum before being handed to the council as a planning blueprint.

Representatives have indicated the group supports the car park/play park option but will go along with the will of the people.

Couns Fairhurst have criticised the plans and Standish Voice for running the consultation.

Coun Debbie Fairhurst said: “Given the comments made to me, it is crystal clear that they do not want this area to be turned into a car park. I know both me and George will battle to keep it from being concreted over and we will always represent the people of Standish.”

Her father-in-law added: “This car park will do nothing for anybody. Everyone is going nuts about this plan. I can’t believe this group can be so selfish. Children use it throughout the summer.”

Standish Voice said a previous public consultation about its Neighbourhood Plan indicated 73 per cent of respondents wanted a public park in the centre of the village. Lack of parking was another concern also flagged up.

They added: “How the park would look would be open to further consultation but we think a leafy park with areas to grow flowers and fruit and vegetables in conjunction with Standish In Bloom and Standish Incredible Edible, with some children’s play provision would be ideal.”

Coun George Fairhurst said the land is subject to a covenant, gifted to the people of Standish and should be left alone. He added that parking in the centre of village is free for up to 90 minutes at Aldi.

The consultation runs until March 27 and the public can vote via the www.standishvoice.co.uk website.