Plea to help businesses on retail hub facing HS2 bulldozers

Help for businesses on an industrial park set to be bulldozed to make way for HS2 should be a town hall priority, a councillor has urged.

Tuesday, 20th November 2018, 2:02 pm
Updated Tuesday, 20th November 2018, 3:14 pm
An artist's impression of HS2

Construction work on the borough’s link to the high speed route will not start for several years.

But firms on the Lowton business park off Pocket Nook Lane have been affected by the uncertainty, according to Coun James Grundy.

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The Conservative representative for Lowton East, who objects to the HS2 project, told a committee meeting this week that owners are already considering relocating out of the borough.

He said: “There has been a great deal of uncertainty because the process has being going on now for five years. Those businesses that are looking at investing or expanding, even though we haven’t reached the stage we can give them a definitive answer, they’re already considering moving out of the borough.

“So I would ask that the council actively goes in to ensure we do not lose those jobs.”

Coun Grundy received reassurance from town hall officers that discussions were already under way and efforts will be made to relocate the firms inside the borough.

The council is currently working on its response to a draft environmental statement on the HS2 plans and residents are also being urged to provide feedback.

A spur of the high speed route will cut through Lowton and Golborne to join up with the west coast mainline, providing a link up to Wigan.

And a public consultation event will take place later this month.

High-speed rail will “put Wigan on the map,” officers Rebecca Heron and Claire Butler told the meeting of the confident places scrutiny committee.

Work is under way at the town hall to make the borough “HS2-ready” to take advantage of the predicted economic boom the link-up will bring.

Ms Heron, the director for skills and economy, said: “You will be able to get to London and Birmingham from Wigan quicker than you can from Manchester, which is quite a statement to be able to make. It puts Wigan on the map. Not only will Wigan be a location you can get to other places from, it will be a location that people come to.”

Members were informed that the environmental impact consultation continues until next month and the council will submit a borough response alongside wider feedback from the Greater Manchester combined authority.

Construction of the phase 2b link that runs through the borough is scheduled to start in 2023 with a completion date in 2033.

The town hall is aiming to be ‘high-speed ready’ by 2026, though, as that is when high speed services will start using the existing rail network, officers said.

Coun Susan Gambles said the proposed route cutting through Byrom Wood – a popular area of community woodland – would be a “massive discussion point” for residents.

The Labour representative for Golborne and Lowton West told the committee meeting: “Byrom Wood will be a massive discussion point for our communities, it wasn’t on the original map but the line cuts straight through the wood itself, which has caused consternation. We expect it to be a large discussion point at the consultation event.

“It will be something that we’ll be working on with yourselves and the local community.”

Both Couns Grundy and Gambles spoke about the potential impact of the route on local primary schools in addition to a proposed loss of Lowton civic playing fields.

Officers offered reassurance that many of the issues raised would be dealt with at the later design stage.

Responding to Coun Grundy’s concerns about the businesses on the industrial site off Pocket Nook Lane, Ms Butler said: “I think those discussions have already started, our business officers have been liaising with them and you’re right, these are points that perhaps need to come through in the response.”

Coun Gambles added: “It’s a significant project with lots of opportunities. We’re working with our community groups on the environmental impact and it’s quite significant with the proposed viaduct.

“We’ll be there on the day (of the consultation). I expect there will be a lot of community members and I would like more people to come (from other wards).”

The HS2 consultation event will take place on November 27 from 2pm to 8pm, at Golborne Sports Club.