Stalemate over park plans

Coun Gareth Fairhurst with his village green application for Ashfield Park
Coun Gareth Fairhurst with his village green application for Ashfield Park
  • Dispute over park’s future will lead to public inquiry
  • Both sides have proposed alternative plans instead
  • But each has been rejected, leaving a stalemate

AN ongoing dispute about the future of a Wigan park has taken further twists and turns ahead of a much-anticipated public inquiry.

Standish councillor Gareth Fairhurst has called for the inquiry in a bid for Ashfield Park to be granted village green (VG) status to protect it from housing development.

Historic park and garden designation...would protect the park from development

Deputy leader Coun David Molyneux

But council bosses have long argued they have no plans for the site and slammed Coun Fairhurst’s “unnecessary” Save Ashfield campaign for collecting money from the public.

A date for the inquiry is yet to be set but both sides have now offered alternatives which have been rejected by the opposing side.

Coun Fairhurst said “he had thrown down the gauntlet” to the council by challenging them to apply for Fields in Trust status, which would prevent housing development but not be as restrictive in terms of developing facilities as VG designation.

He said if the council agreed to this alternative, he would withdraw his VG application.

But council bosses have responded by proposing their own alternative, which has been immediately rejected by Coun Fairhurst.

They said they would extend the “historic park and garden designation which currently applies to part of the park, to all of the park” as VG status would prevent them improving park facilities.

Deputy leader Coun David Molyneux said: “This would protect the park from development adversely affecting its historical importance but would also allow investment for improvements.”

With both sides rejecting each other’s alternatives, it appears the stalemate will continue up to the public inquiry which will see a government inspector determine the validity of the VG application.

But Coun Fairhurst said: “It appears the public inquiry will be going ahead, then. What they’re proposing won’t make a difference if a developer wants to build houses on the park, it’s not concrete enough.”