Plan to raze town hall for clinic gets backing

An artist's impression of the new Ashton Health Centre planned for the site of the former town hall on Bryn Street

An artist's impression of the new Ashton Health Centre planned for the site of the former town hall on Bryn Street

Controversial plans to demolish a former town hall and build a new health centre in its place have been recommended for approval.

Proposals by applicant One Partnership for the old Ashton Town Hall will be considered by Wigan Council’s planning committee this Tuesday.

Ashton Town Hall

Ashton Town Hall

The plan is to bulldoze all the buildings currently on the Bryn Street site and then put in place a two-storey facility housing two GPs surgeries, a pharmacy and community spaces.

Despite the proposals causing fury among local residents and opposition councillors officers have recommended in a report that the committee approves the plan subject to conditions.

The report states: “Overall, the scheme will secure a much-needed community healthcare facility for Ashton in Makerfield and lead to the regeneration of a vacant site. The town hall is not a listed building and is not situated within the Ashton town centre conservation area.

“There are also a number of unattractive later additions to the side and rear of the building which detract from the appearance of the site. The building is not of any special architectural quality. Matters such as the design of the building, demolition of the existing buildings, ecologyand tree impacts and impact of the development on amenity have been assessed and overall the proposal is considered to be acceptable.”

The plan has divided the community with Bryn independent representative Coun Steve Jones objecting and 37 letters against the scheme being sent to the council while Labour member Coun Nigel Ash and 11 other residents have penned letters of support.

Objectors say the demolition of the building is dangerous for pupils at nearby St Oswald’s RC Primary School and claim the health centre is being put in the wrong place, with insufficient parking and access and other better sites in Ashton being available.

Concerns have also been raised about the loss of such a historic building and the new modern design being out of keeping with the area.

In the report Wigan Council says parking and access is now acceptable as the developers have altered their design to create four disabled parking spaces, an ambulance bay and a drop-off route around the building.

There will also be further disabled car parking and spaces for staff to leave their vehicles on the opposite side of Council Avenue.

Pedestrian access has also been improved with the plans now including footpaths on both sides of Council Avenue and a drop-off facility.

The applicant will also fund a new zebra crossing on Bryn Street and provide alley gates to reduce traffic entering Council Avenue via the alleyway from Millingford Grove.

Council officers say the lack of visitor parking is still acceptable due to the proposed centre being close to existing car parks and bus routes and being within walking distance for many people.

Stone tablets displayed in the town hall will be retained in the health hub and the air-raid siren, weather vane, date stone, flagpole and entrance archway stone will all be donated to the Friends of Ashton. Satisfactory demolition of the building will be subject to a Construction Environmental Management Plan.