Puzzlement as demolition of Wigan shopping centre fails to get under way six months after deadline
Large swathes of the mall were sealed off to the public after Christmas and traders decamped to new homes or left town altogether when it was announced that razing it to be replaced with a £130m complex called Galleries25 providing a new retail, leisure, commercial and residential destination would begin in January.
But while a few preparatory works have been carried out, the expected wrecking balls are nowhere to be seen.
The delays have perpetuated rumours that Beijing-backed developer BCEGI had pulled out.
The council has hotly denied this each time the claim has arisen and today town hall bosses said that the work would be beginning “soon.”
The feeling among traders and shoppers now seems to be that they should get a move on.
Annie Whitworth from Whelley has been a regular in Wigan town centre for decades.
She said: “I wasn’t much impressed by the new plans but now they are committed to them, they just need to get on with it.
"Having this great big shopping centre boarded up with nothing inside and no activity around it only adds to the feeling that Wigan is on the slide.
"If this big new complex is going to save Wigan, the sooner it gets built and is up and running the better.
"These delays make you wonder whether something has gone wrong.”
One trader who did not wish to be identified said: “Businesses have cleared out of the Galleries and now it has just sat there for another six months with nothing happening.
"The town centre is struggling enough as it is without this lack of activity adding to the sense of stagnation.”
Aidan Thatcher, Director of Economy and Skills at Wigan Council, said: “The process of preparing the site for redevelopment is well under way and we anticipate widely communicating the start date for the main works on site soon’
“As sections of the complex are now largely vacant as many businesses have been supported to relocate to alternative premises in the town centre, works have been ongoing to secure the safety of the site.
“Key pedestrian routes remain open and are well sign-posted so shoppers can still access Wigan Market and Makinson Arcade as usual.
“The redevelopment of the Galleries plays a huge role in our wider plans to revitalise the town centre, ensuring it is a place where people want to live, work and spend their time, now and in the future.”
The gigantic plan, aimed at reversing Wigan’s fortunes after years of a retail brain drain, was approved in November.
A hotel, 464 homes and a multimedia centre with a cinema, 10-lane bowling alley and indoor mini-golf are planned as part of the project – a joint venture partnership between the local authority and developers Cityheart and BCEGI UK.
A new market hall, shops and office space have also been approved. Traders will stay in their current location until the new market is completed.
The work is scheduled to be completed in 2025.