Political row erupts over hall inquiry

Formby Hall, Alder Street, Atherton

Formby Hall, Alder Street, Atherton

A war of words has broken out between two local politicians after an inquiry ruled a popular community hall can be demolished.

Wigan Council leader Lord Peter Smith launched an attack on Bolton West MP Chris Green after a report found no grounds to overturn the planning committee’s decision on Atherton’s Formby Hall.

Lord Smith accused the Conservative backbencher of wasting taxpayers’ money and giving residents false hope.

In response Mr Green slammed the council for allowing the town’s heritage to be “sold off”.

As expected the report by planning inspector Martin Whitehead, prepared following a public inquiry, found the method of demolition of the Alder Street venue was appropriate and acceptable.

The report acknowledged campaigners including Atherton Residents’ Association (ARA) had concerns about whether Wigan Council had abided by its own policies in selling the hall but said this could not be considered.

Lord Smith said the town hall intended to pursue the Government to recoup the costs spent on the inquiry.

He said: “It was clear to the council from the very beginning that the call in and subsequent public enquiry would not reverse the planning committee’s decision.The planning application considered was on the method of the demolition of the building and not whether the building should be preserved.

“This was clearly a political decision by Chris Green MP to have the application called in to the Secretary of State and I feel one which unfairly raised hopes among the local community. This call-in process which has lasted almost a year was a waste of public money and time and one which Chris Green should accept responsibility for.”