THE visitor centre at a popular Wigan tourist attraction could be forced to close because of council budget cuts.
The future of the information centre at Haigh Hall, located in the former stables near the entrance to the park, is under review by Wigan and Leisure Culture Trust (WLCT).
The centre, which currently employs two people, sells a range of sweets, chocolates and objects such as low-cost tennis rackets and footballs. It is also a focal point for information about the council’s services, such as events guides, and about the country park, providing maps and leaflets.
WLCT emphasised today that the review does not necessarily mean that the information centre will have to close, and that there were a whole range of ways in which it could be kept running, such as altering the kind of stock it sells to increase its profit or running reduced opening hours.
As part of the government cuts to local authority budgets, Wigan Council has to find £24m of savings this year, with a reduction in WLCT’s budget of £2.9m in 2012/13.
A WLCT spokesman said: “We are working with our partners at the council to try and protect as many frontline services as possible.
“However, the scale of these cuts will inevitably mean we have to find new ways of working.
“Areas of this organisation are currently being reviewed to see how savings can be made without significantly impacting on frontline services.
“How we ensure residents have access to information at Haigh is part of that review process.”
However, Independent councillor Bob Brierley is beginning a campaign to keep the visitor centre open, and said he wants to see more facilities returned to the country park.
Coun Brierley said: “How are people going to access their information if a facility like that is shut? I’m sure they could keep it open and cut the budget in other ways.
“I’ve heard about people wanting to re-open the model village and get the miniature train running again, and if everything is open like that people will come and visit and it will generate money.
“Quite a few people have spoken to me about this, and there’s petitions going out for people to sign. Haigh Hall is a beautiful country park, this is our heritage and it belongs to the people of Wigan.”