Concern over plans to demolish old town hall

Coun Steve Jones outside Ashton Town Hall

Coun Steve Jones outside Ashton Town Hall

Ambitious plans to demolish a former town hall and build a state-of-the-art health centre have been submitted to Wigan Council.

Proposals to flatten the old Ashton Town Hall and replace it with a medical hub for two GPs practices, community health services and a pharmacy have been submitted by Eric Wright Health and Care.

Developers say the proposals will bulldoze a building which is no longer fit for use and replace it with a modern , much-needed facility.

The plans retain several historic features of the Bryn Street town hall which will either be incorporated into the new design or given to a community group to preserve.

However, residents and opposition councillors have expressed concerns about several aspects of the new building, including the lack of parking and public transport access and a timetable which could potentially see the building demolished before Wigan Council has agreed to the work.

Eric Wright Health and Care head of strategic planning Wayne Ashton said: “We are really pleased to say that we are working with the Wigan Borough CCG and Wigan Council to develop a new health entre for Ashton.

“We have also met with a local community group and agreed to donate items of interest such as the old air raid siren, the weathervane and commemoration stone.

“The former town hall was also home to a number of stone tablets which at the request of the council have been safely removed and will be incorporated into the new health facility design.

“Once the site is demolished and subject to planning approval, we will be looking to start building the new health centre in the New Year and we anticipate the centre will be operational in the spring of 2018.”

However, the development has already run into some problems as protective fencing has been installed around the site in preparation for the demolition work starting, resulting in the closure of a footpath.

This has created problems for parents and children getting to St Oswald’s Primary School and residents getting on to Council Avenue.

Eric Wright, which bought the town hall from the council in October 2015, apologised for the inconvenience and assured people it was working with the school and local authority to find a solution.

Another potential handicap is that developers want to do most of the demolition work on site during the October half-term holiday but Wigan Council can technically take until after this to decide on the application to bulldoze it.

Coun Steve Jones, who represents Bryn ward, has now called for both the demolition and main applications to be scrutinised by the planning committee rather than the decision being delegated to Wigan Council officers, a call echoed by leader of the opposition Coun Michael Winstanley.

Coun Jones, who previously worked with a community group which unsuccessfully bid to run the former town hall and sits as an independent in the chamber, said: “The demolition is right in front of a school so there’s the safety aspect of it. There are only 10 parking spaces planned and we’ve no parking in Ashton as it is so I don’t know what they are going to do about that.

“It’s a historic building. Couldn’t we make the existing medical centre just round the corner bigger?”