Legion shoe box depot row

Views of a controversial container that has appeared in the car park of Standish Commuinty Centre, Moody Street, Standish

Views of a controversial container that has appeared in the car park of Standish Commuinty Centre, Moody Street, Standish

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RIVAL British Legion chiefs are at war in Wigan over a shoe box appeal for squaddies.

Standish branch were called before the council’s development committee because they have no planning permission for a large shipping container they placed on council land at least three years.

The container is used to store toiletries and gifts ready for shipping out to soldiers in Afghanistan.

But, in an extra-ordinary showdown, Standish RBL chairman David Williams found himself being opposed across the council chamber by a sole objector - the Chairman of Aspull Branch Legion, Coun John Hilton.

The long serving Vice chairman of planning said that he supported the shoe box appeal, but was speaking out after being contacted by un-named neighbours in Church Street.

Mr Williams said that the container was put onto the car park of Standish Community Centre rather than Standish Unity Club where the Legion branch is based because that was where the Branch’s shoe box operation was based.

He said 90 per cent of members are 70 and upwards and it was important that they didn’t need to walk too far to get the supplies to fill them.

More than 6,500 shoe boxes have been sent out to troops in the Middle East from Standish.

And he accused Coun Hilton of causing a “total waste of taxpayer’s money by triggering the planning committee hearing by objecting when Metro planning officers themselves were recommending approval.

Mr Williams said: “We need this use of this container because people here in Wigan are extremely generous in making donations to the Legion and we need to store them before they are sent out to the boys and girls in Afghanistan.

“Without this container we simply wouldn’t be able to provide this essential service and I am therefore amazed that anyone would object to this planning application.

“It looks a little dilapidated but we have now agreed to paint it black with paint donated by a top local business.

“Most local people will be appalled that someone could be so petty in putting in a formal objection.”

Coun Hilton didn’t vote on the issue after declaring an interest as a Legion official, following a legal discussion in the committee on whether he would be allowed to appear as an objector.

He told the committee that neighbours in Church Street had contacted him to complain that the six metre long shipping container was taking up valuable car parking space in the Community Centre’s car park which meant people attending events were parking outside their homes instead.

He said: “Part of Standish is in my ward and I have been contacted by residents who want to know what is going on with this container which is 150 yards from the Standish legion Branch headquarters.

“It really is a whole can of worms because it has been put on authority owned land without planning permission or insurance three years ago.

“I have made my own check and Mr Williams doesn’t own the container, neither do the British legion.

“It has never been Health and Safety checked and isn’t fenced off from children or members of the public and I just don’t know where the council would stand if somebody hurt themselves.”

But director of environment Steve Normington said that there was only a minimal impact on spaces in the Community Centre’s car park.

And he said the question of insurance or whether rent should be paid for positioning the container on council land wasn’t relevant for the planning decision.

The containers was eventually granted three years temporary permission to stay where it is.