Controversial plans to bulldoze a former town hall building and replace it with a modern health centre have been approved.
Wigan Council’s planning committee passed the application to build the medical hub on the site of the ex-Ashton Town Hall with conditions attached.
It is our hope that it will become a much loved community facility in the same way the town hall was previouslyWayne Ashton
Developers One Partnership applied to construct a modern two-storey building on the Bryn Street site which will become home to two GPs surgeries, a pharmacy and community facilities.
It has been suggested the new centre could open next year.
However, the plans caused outcry in the area, with opponents saying it was in the wrong place for a health facility and the town hall, the main part of which was built in 1876, was a landmark building in Ashton which should have been protected.
The scheme aroused considerable local opposition, with Bryn independent representative Coun Steve Jones objecting and 37 letters against the scheme being received by the town hall.
The council also received 11 letters in support of the scheme, which was also backed by Labour representative for Ashton ward Coun Nigel Ash.
Following the planning committee’s decision the developers expressed delight the scheme had been given the go ahead.
Wayne Ashton, head of strategic planning at Eric Wright Health and Care, said: “We were delighted to receive planning permission for the new health centre on the site of the former town hall.
“We have been working with our partners for a number of years to develop a new health facility and so this decision has given us the green light to make this a reality.
“We will continue to work with the local community and the various stakeholders to ensure it will have a positive impact on the health and well-being of the people of Ashton.
“It is our hope that it will become a much loved community facility in the same way the town hall was previously.”
Coun Ash added: “I am delighted that the planning committee gave unanimous approval for the medical centre. Because of Government changes to NHS funding the people of Ashton will have waited over 10 years for this centre to be built.
“Now the developers can finally start the job and Ashton will get a modern health facility which it so desperately needs. I look forward to the opening in 2018.”
Residents who objected to the scheme said the site was unsuitable due to a lack of parking and access for elderly and disabled patients and safety fears over traffic near a primary school.
Campaigners also questioned the way Wigan Council sold the building to Eric Wright just before an auction was set to take place, with at least one community group intending to bid.
Tracey Lowe, who spoke in objection to the application at the planning meeting, said: “We are all really disappointed. One woman shouted it was disgusting it is being passed.
“We’ve seen no evidence why this is the best site and the proposals show a lack of understanding of the area.
“The town centre is already gridlocked and the pictures they showed at the meeting didn’t really show the true gradient of Bryn Street. You couldn’t tell how steep it is.
“My main concern is the hundreds of children having a safe route to walk to school.”