Dissent growing over ex-town hall plans

Members of the patients participation group opposing the plan for Ashton Town Hall
Members of the patients participation group opposing the plan for Ashton Town Hall

Opposition to plans to turn a former civic building into a state-of-the-art health centre is growing.

Unhappy residents have criticised the proposal to transform Ashton Town Hall, saying it is the wrong place.

Coun Steve Jones

Coun Steve Jones

Developer One Partnership has also been accused of starting work without getting planning permission and Wigan Council and local Labour councillors have been criticised over a perceived lack of willingness to heed local views.

Opposition to the plan to create two GPs surgeries, a pharmacy and community health services centre on its proximity to St Oswald’s Primary School and the potential for traffic chaos and a lack of parking in the area.

One resident, who asked not to be named, said: “A public meeting was held two weeks ago and only the independent councillor attended.

“People of Ashton have been asking for a new health centre and the Labour councillors have twisted this to them saying they want it on the site of the old town hall. They are only interested in saying they got Ashton a new medical centre, not the objections that local people have made to the planning department.

The new health centre will add to what can be described as mayhem already

Tracey Lowe

“The developer has started work demolishing before permission has been granted.”

Bryn Street resident Tracey Lowe said: “I am not opposing anything that will improve the services in Ashton, but at the moment in that area the traffic and parking is a major issue so I am totally against the plan for the health centre being passed.

“Parents, staff and pupils all come to the school at various times of the day. The new health centre will add to what can be described as mayhem already.”

Residents’ concerns about traffic and parking echo those raised by the patient participation group for the Dr Alistair’s Partnership surgery on Queens Road, which would move into the new centre.

Bryn independent councillor Steve Jones said: “I think planning needs to take a really good look at all the issues raised and take them into consideration. If the developers and council had made the proposal clear they would have been aware of the public uproar and unease, so for that reason I think it has been kept quiet.”

But Labour representative for Ashton and chair of the health and social care scrutiny committee Coun Nigel Ash said: “I’ve clearly campaigned for this in two elections and I’ve been supporting this through its various stages. The town hall is the only one that fits with the funding and is right for Ashton. The other possible sites don’t fit the criteria because of contamination, cost, ownership or other issues. For example, there’s the talk about Princess Road but it’s an old gas works so it will cost a lot of money to clean up that area. People I’ve spoken to have understood what we are doing. I’m not saying it’s perfect it’s the one that is possible.”

Mike Worden, Council assistant director for planning and transport, said: “The application for the new health centre will be determined by the planning committee in the New Year. We have consulted locally on the application in line with our policy on publicising planning applications, but are still welcoming comments from residents who wish to make them.”