A REVOLUTIONARY plan to win private sector investment in Wigan’s best loved attraction could take longer than planned.
Council bosses have invited business plans from leisure companies interested in a leasing partnership for Haigh Hall and the municipal golf course.
Five potential investment organisations have been shortlisted to develop plans to protect and enhance the country park and the plantations.
Town hall chiefs said today that it was unable to disclose the names of the organisations – sources suggest Kilhey Court owner McDonald Hotels is in the running - because of commercial confidentiality.
Council assistant director for leisure and property Penny McGinty revealed today that rumours suggesting a deal had been done were premature.
She said that regeneration of Haigh Hall and the Country Park remained a “high priority” for the council. But the complex nature of the lease project meant that it had not yet been completed.
And because of the commercial sensitivity of the deal and European Procurement rules it was unable to comment in detail on the timescale for completion.
She said: “Unfortunately the council’s process has been delayed slightly, but we expect to progress things during the coming summer months.
“As this is commercially sensitive we cannot name the organisations involved but they are fully committed to the process. “The project team are impressed by the exciting and innovative proposals that have been presented.”
With the estate in need of multi-million pound investment, the council decided in summer 2013 to seek an external partner to inject much-needed cash into the site.
Haigh Hall and Country Park, a major visitor destination attracting around 300,000 visits a year, is currently managed by leisure and culture provider Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust. But council research found that enhancing the site and improving the existing facilities could attract even more visitors and bring much-needed revenue to the area.
A range of options, including turning the hall into a hotel or conference centre and opening up the park for new sports or adventure activities is being explored.
The main aim of any investment programme is to maintain public access to the park while bringing economic and social benefits to the area.