Wigan Council's Â£9m spend on buildings and land
Wigan Council has spent almost Â£9m on land and buildings in the past four years, surprising new figures have revealed.
Data put together by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism showed the town hall has made 11 purchases in the borough since 2014, costing a total of Â£8,865,901.
By far the biggest chunk of this is the Â£7.5m shelled out earlier this year for the local authority to take control of The Galleries Shopping Centre.
Interestingly, the data suggests Wigan is one of comparatively few councils not buying shopping centres for investment purposes.
But the data shows the council has also paid homeowners for dwellings which conflict with road-building projects as well as buying open land, commercial land and vacant properties.
The council has defended its forays into the property market to enable its major infrastructure schemes to go forward, saying the process is accountable and value for money.Paul McKevitt, deputy chief executive, said: “It is common practice for an authority to purchase a building or piece of land and every purchase is scrutinised to ensure it is value for money and the best use of our finances.
“We must demonstrate there is a strong case for a compulsory purchase order (CPO) and will only do this when necessary, especially when it involves a residential property.
“The Galleries was purchased to deliver the regeneration of the town centre after years of decline. While other councils have bought retail centres as an investment we bought it for redevelopment.
“Through The Deal we are committed to supporting our local economy to grow.”
The data shows the council bought the ailing shopping venue in Wigan town centre in February from Colcastor BSARL Luxembourg, a subsidiary of US retail investment giant Colony Capital.
It is not the first time the council has invested in that area as it paid Â£185,000 back in October 2014 for the Hope Street building now containing a Wigan and Leigh Hospice charity shop.
Much of the council’s other activity relates to building roads.
The town hall spent Â£630,000 buying two properties on Brook Lane in Orrell for the M58 link road and a further Â£85,000 on open land to the south of Milton Grove for the same project.
Moving residents out of their homes is a costly business, though, as one house which the council paid Â£400,000 for in 2015 sold for just Â£195,000 three years previously.
Land at the Adam Viaduct on Southgate was purchased in December 2014 for the Saddle Relief Road, although Network Rail only charged Â£2,900 for it.
The local authority also forked out Â£220,000 to the North West Ambulance Trust (NWAS) in September 2017 for the land occupied by the old Wigan Ambulance Station on Pottery Road as part of regenerating the Wigan Pier Quarter.
In addition the A5225 required the council to pick up houses on Wesley Street in September 2016 for a total of Â£210,000 paid to the Arena Housing Group.
The town hall also picked up the once-popular pub The Crooked Wheel on Worsley Mesnes Drive for Â£33,000 in early 2015 from a convenience store manager and paid Redrow a Â£1 fee for public land off Robin Park Road.