CHURCH chiefs have won a controversial fight to redevelop a vicarage.
A former Mayor of Wigan and the area’s councillor have accused the Anglican Diocese of Liverpool of attempting to profiteer from the leafy Haigh site, which they fear will now set a precedent for development in one of the borough’s most desirable areas.
But a church spokesman said in approving the scheme the planning inspector had backed their judgement that the project had been “sensitively planned.”
Haigh St David’s vicarage in Copperas Lane - at the heart of the Haigh Village Conservation Area - will now be demolished and replaced with two five-bedroomed executive-style homes.
The diocese had contended that the existing building wasn’t suitable for the needs of the vicar of St David’s and Aspull St Elizabeth’s, Rev Simon Pritchard and his family. It was costly to maintain as well as being isolated and vulnerable.
The building is the latest in a series of vicarages to be sold off and redeveloped by the cash-strapped Church of England, including Newtown St Mark’s and St Elizabeth’s in Aspull. But ward councillor John Hilton - a member of Haigh St David’s church himself - accused the diocese of “riding roughshod” over the community’s wishes.
Planning officers had recommended the controversial plan be given a thumbs-up after Wigan’s director of economy Steve Normington said it was a “sustainable development” which will complement the Conservation Area.
The Diocese of Liverpool said today it was “delighted” by the judgement of the inspector.
A spokesman said the verdict vindicated its opinion that this “sensitively planned” development was “fully in keeping” with the village and the Green Belt and conservation area.
The inspector said in his judgement: “I consider the scheme would preserve both the character and appearance of the conservation area and allow the role of the site within the conservation area that results from its spacious, tree covered nature to be maintained.”
Council director of economy Steve Normington said it is not unusual for a planning inspector to uphold an appeal of this nature.