Picture of Wigan Pier shortly before it closed
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Developers have promised that there will be an announcement soon as to who the new operating partner for the old Orwell, education centre and The Way We Were buildings will be now that the contract has been put out to tender.
Locals’ patience has been tested after it was declared in early 2018 that the former tourist hotspots would be given a new lease of life as hospitality and performance venues within a year – but everyone is still wating.
Wigan Today reader Brian King sent us this picture which he took shortly after The Orwell closed in the mid-noughties, saying: “It was a sad day when these venues closed. They had been so popular and good for Wigan.
"Folk would really like to see them put to good use again after so long in mothballs.”
Developer Step Places has done a lot of the hard graft on the historic premises before during and since the pandemic: weather-proofing them and replacing any diseased timber so they are ready for use for another century.
But it has been the fitting-out stage which has been hit by most delays and the work was further shelved when Step Places announced that it had parted company with its original site operator, the Old Courts, after receiving overtures from national event and hospitality firms post-Covid which could ultimately make the project a more ambitious one.
Applications are currently being processed and while no final decision has yet been taken, bosses say that once the contractor has been selected, it could take only 16 to 20 weeks to get much of the operations – which could still involve a food hall, distillery, hospitality venues and a rejigged education centre but may feature different attractions – up and running in fewer than 20 weeks from annoucement.
Meanwhile across the canal, work continues apace at Eckersley Mills to transformed them into further leisure, hospitality, accommodation and business premises. Street food evenings are already been held on weekend evenings to encourage custom even before the mills’ own food hall opens next year.
Developers of both sites insist they are not in competition but their offers will complement each other and be equally good for the town economy.