D-day for Ashfield Park could be months away

Coun Gareth Fairhurst hopes to save Ashfield Park in Standish
Coun Gareth Fairhurst hopes to save Ashfield Park in Standish

RESIDENTS are facing a lengthy wait for a public inquiry which will determine the future of a much-loved borough park.

Ashfield Park in Standish is subject to a village green application with campaigners engaged in a long-running dispute with council officials about plans for the green space.

If village green status was approved it would stop the council improving Ashfield Park with new play or sporting equipment in the future which would leave the people of Standish losing out

David Molyneux - deputy leader Wigan Council

The inquiry - expected to last for one week - was due to take place back in April but was postponed because of the political impact on the upcoming elections.

But with nearly a month gone since polling day, a date is still yet to be set.

Council officials are locked in a back and forth with representatives from the Save Ashfield Park campaign with attempts to settle on a date so far proving fruitless.

A spokesman for Wigan Council confirmed to the Evening Post that a date has yet to be agreed but will be advertised to the public once in place.

Campaign manager Coun Gareth Fairhurst said a suggested date in August had been deemed unsuitable and the two parties were now discussing whether it can take place in September.

Wigan Council officials have long maintained there are no plans to build homes on the park, something which is disputed by Coun Fairhurst and the Save Ashfield group.

The Standish Independents group leader has been handed support from a number of fund-raising events for the bid to gain village green status, which would prevent any development on the park.

That application was submitted in 2012 and last year a government inspector ordered the matter to be heard before the public enquiry.

Earlier this year, deputy leader of Wigan Council Coun David Molyneux said Ashfield was “safe in their hands” and accused Coun Fairhurst of “misleading residents into thinking there are plans for homes.”

He added: “If village green status was approved it would stop the council improving Ashfield Park with new play or sporting equipment in the future which would leave the people of Standish losing out.

“We are committed to having an open and transparent public inquiry for the village green application.”

Coun Fairhurst said: “I would have loved to announce the dates for the public inquiry this week but Wigan Council has not accepted my two other proposal for dates and now we are in limbo a bit.”

The inquiry will be conducted by an independent inspector.