Free skate park needed

19-year-old James Higgins meets with Bolton West MP Chris Green over the recent closure of Atherton Outdoor Skate Park
19-year-old James Higgins meets with Bolton West MP Chris Green over the recent closure of Atherton Outdoor Skate Park

The young BMX rider leading an online campaign to replace a demolished skate park says new free equipment in his area is absolutely vital.

James Higgins, 19, has attracted hundreds of signatures to a petition launched following the removal of neglected and dangerous ramps from Atherton Outdoor Skate Park.

He is now calling on Wigan Council, which carried out the demolition work, to support young skateboarding, inline blading and bike enthusiasts to provide somewhere youngsters on modest budgets can continue their hobby.

He said the park next to Atherton Community School was extremely popular and said the council’s flagship skate zone at Howe Bridge Leisure Centre was not big enough for everyone wanting to use it.

Jamie, from Atherton, said: “I’ve used the park ever since it was built and it kept everyone from children to people in their 30s out of trouble. On a hot summer day you could have 120 people there.

“It doesn’t seem right to me that the council can just take something away from young people and then expect them to pay for something that used to be free.

“There are people out there who can’t even afford to catach the bus to school, so they need something free where they live. A lot of people can’t afford Howe Bridge.

“Fair play to the council for actually building something but it gets very crowded and cramped in there because it’s quite small.

“I’m a bit overwhelmed by the amount of support I’ve got and I’m very grateful. I’m going to keep contacting the councillors and rattle their cages. I’ve no problem with arranging fund-raisers, I’m on a mission to get a skate park built.”

Wigan Council said it was happy to work with Atherton Residents’ Association, which is backing James along with Bolton West MP Chris Green, but defended its decision to demolish the old equipment.

The town hall’s assistant director for property Penny McGinty said: “We will happily work with Atherton Residents Association if they can acquire grant funding to replace the kit and find a solution to pay for the maintenance.

“Various options were considered by Wigan Council. Closing and demolishing the skate park was the most viable based on; the alternative venue at Howe Bridge Leisure Centre which offers a safe environment and reasonable prices with discounted options for regular visits, and the history of ongoing issues with anti-social behaviour.”

To see James’ petition visit https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/relocation-and-rebuilding-of-atheron