Haigh Hall campaigners fear for more public restriction to site
The Friends of Haigh Hall Heritage and Open Access For All group says it has seen a Wigan Council document with a black line drawn across the southern end of the drive, close to the miniature railway.
As there are already large posts either side of the asphalt route at this point they are worried gates or other restrictions to pedestrian access will go up there.
However, Wigan Council has said it has had no discussions with its tenant Contessa Hotels about this.
The local authority has also replied to an FOI request from the group explaining that the improvements to Haigh Woodland Park were paid for by town hall capital funding.
The group says it is important to publicise this as it is widely thought that the council spent Contessa Hotels’ money on the adventure playground and other outdoor facilities.
A spokesperson for the group said: “Somebody has drawn a line on the plan of Haigh Hall and we think the long-term plan may be an electric gate at the bottom of the path. It looks like they may block access there as well as at the top.
“We also think this could be the case because it’s where the panoramic path starts.
“You will walk in and get as far as the railway and then will have to go along that other path.
“There’s no way if we allow electric gates or fencing to go up that they will keep them open.”
The FOI response by Wigan Council shows money for the improvements to the country park were put in two phases back in 2015, with £2.45m in part A of the first phase and £1.24m in part B. A further £69,000 was spent on upgrading unadopted estate roads.
That meant £3,893,585.44 from the council’s capital programme went on the main adventure play, high ropes, adventure golf, conversion of the stables, the golf and visitor centre and other infrastructure work.
The council said this was only possible due to Contessa Hotels promising to put up cash for the work on the grade-II-listed building.
Penny McGinty, assistant director for corporate contracts and assets at Wigan Council, said: “The council paid for the improvements to Haigh through capital funding. This was set out in our budget which is published each year and can be viewed by anyone online.
“The wider Haigh Woodland site needed substantial investment and securing a private investor to invest in the Hall meant that we were then able to significantly invest in and improve other areas of the park.
“Contessa have never told us they intend for gates to be situated at the bottom point of the driveway.”
However, Wigan Council did not respond to a further point from the campaign about the similarity between Contessa’s vision for Haigh and its plan for Walton Hall in Warrington, which was canned by the town hall there following protests by the public and opposition politicians.
The spokesperson said: “In Warrington the council stood by its residents and they’ve now got a thriving hall run by the community.
“There were other options available and we don’t understand why Wigan Council has chosen this path which involves our access being restricted.”