Wigan Pier re-launch forecast for August

The man co-ordinating the rebirth of some of Wigan’s most famous landmarks says they are on target for an August re-launch.

Friday, 12th February 2021, 11:50 am
The external works on the Pier buildings are all but complete and the interior fitters are expected to move in within weeks
The external works on the Pier buildings are all but complete and the interior fitters are expected to move in within weeks

Activity around the former Way We Were museum, education centre and Orwell at Wigan Pier had noticeably quietened in recent months as new Covid restrictions bit and external restorations to the historic buildings neared completion.

But Harinder Dhaliwal, managing director of Manchester-based Step Places, which is performing much of the work to turn them into thriving attractions once again says that next month should see things move up several gears as fitting out the interiors gets under way.

The old museum is to become home to a food hall and microbrewery, including vending stalls similar to those found at the hugely successful Mackie Mayor venue in Manchester.

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Harinder Dhaliwal (left) with Coun David Molyneux at the project's launch in 2018

The education centre will be re-born and the old Orwell will become an events facility.

When Step Places was revealed as Wigan Council’s chosen partner for the transformation project in early 2018 - along with the Canal and River Trust and later The Old Courts - it was predicted that everything would be open within 12 months.

Things didn’t go entirely to plan, as is the way with such things, and when work began in earnest on the restoration, the experts realised there was far more structural replacement work to be carried out on hitherto covered timber, metal and stonework than could be detected from initial examination.

Then came Covid and, while work continued for large parts of last year, it couldn’t go at full speed because of social distancing and because some suppliers weren’t able to send through the materials needed due to shutdowns and furlough. But in the last few days workmen have been seen outside the pierside buildings again, one image here showing them sanding down girders jutting out over the jetty and canal which will support a retractable awning.

Workman have been back on site lately. Here they are sanding down girders prior to the installation of a verandah-jetty awning

Other work includes shot-blasting more metalwork, clearing away pigeon nests and replacing the large double doors looking onto Wallgate.

Mr Dhaliwal said: “By March things should really be hotting up. There will suddenly be a lot of activity on the site as the fitting out really gets under way.

“Then by July when the last touches are put to the interiors - like bringing in the furniture - we will carry out our improvement works to the areas between the two main buildings. There is no point doing it before then because that area is needed for lots of heavy vehicle parking and materials. It can get messy.

“All being well though, after doing that, we are hoping still to be open by August.”

The education centre is being relaunched

Interior works include priming all the electrics, plumbing, air conditioning, sprinklers and fire alarms, before installing other fixtures, fittings and decor.

Mr Dhaliwal said that scrupulous attention would be paid to health and safety.

He added that on the newly replaced verandahs will also be installed lighting and night heaters so that, along with the awnings, the areas can still be used by guests when the weather isn’t so clement.

Dave Jenkins, managing director of the latter organisation, said: “Following on from the amazing feedback from the development works at Wigan Pier, it’s great now to be able to focus on the final stages of bringing this world famous landmark back for public enjoyment.

“Obviously we’re still under the constraints of the pandemic but we’re hopeful things can move forward carefully as the country moves tentatively forward.

“We’ll be doing everything we can in the background to ensure the cultural landscape is ready to support the ambitions of our community.”

And Wigan Council leader David Molyneux said: “Once complete, the Wigan Pier development will transform the Pier Quarter, bringing in more leisure, employment and investment opportunities to our town centre.

“We look forward to continuing our partnership with Step Places and The Old Courts in bringing this vision to fruition and commend the work that has continued to take place in line with Covid-19 guidance.”

Meanwhile it is expected that the first residents will move into the town houses constructed further along the canal as part of the same project.

The ready-made modules arrived shrink-wrapped on the backs of lorries from a factory in Derbyshire last August and were lowered and stacked by crane to overlook the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, causing quite a stir in the process.

They have all since been fitted out and come virtually ready to live in, bar bringing your own furniture and other possessions.

And they have all manner of mod cons and eco-friendly features in the quest for comfortable and carbon-neutral 21st century living.

Mr Dhaliwal says there is nothing quite like it anywhere else in Greater Manchester but this MMC - modern methods of construction - is the future of housing.

One feature is an air source heat pump: a low energy heating system which extracts warmth from the air and is seen as the future of domestic heating, especially as gas will be abolished in all new homes (apart from for use in cookers) by 2023. The homes are also incredibly well sound-insulated.

Had it not been for further lockdowns, some of the homes would already have been occupied by now, but Mr Dhaliwal said that he expected some people to be moving in over the next few weeks.

Four have been reserved and there has been interest shown in two of the remainder.

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