Demolition of a popular community hub has begun despite a lengthy battle to save it.
Atherton’s Formby Hall has now been fenced off and work to bulldoze the iconic building will start with the removal of asbestos.
This is a very, very sad day for the people of Atherton. Formby Hall was a much-loved community hub and a centre point of the town for decadesChris Green MP
The Alder Street venue, which hosted a huge range of community events over the years including the popular Bent ‘n’ Bongs Beer Bash, will ultimately be flattened to make way for nursing and supported living accommodation.
The sight of the metal railings has prompted an outpouring of sorrow from those who campaigned to keep it open. Anger was also directed at Wigan Council for allowing the building to be sold off several years ago, although the town hall vigorously defended its actions.
Conservative MP for Bolton West Chris Green, who called the demolition approval in to ministers, said: “This is a very, very sad day for the people of Atherton. Formby Hall was a much-loved community hub and a centre point of the town for decades. It is particularly sad that it is being knocked down 100 years after it was first gifted to the people of Atherton.
“The blame for this firmly lies at the doors of Wigan Council and its leaders. The hall wasn’t theirs to sell in the first place and they have shown complete disregard to the people of Atherton in their actions.”
Atherton Residents’ Association, which gathered thousands of signatures on petitions to save the hall and gave evidence to a public inquiry, said it was “disappointed” but the fight would continue to hold the authorities to account and ensure a replacement hall is built.
The inquiry upheld the planning committee’s decision to approve demolition, saying there were no legal grounds to reject it.
The council denied any suggestion of wrongdoing. Karl Battersby, director for economy and environment, said: “We understand the concerns of the local people, but the council has followed all due processes and an independent inspector appointed by the government has agreed to the method of demolition.”