`

Campaign grows to save Cherries field

Members of the community clear the overgrown garden
Members of the community clear the overgrown garden

The future of a piece of open land in Wigan will be decided by councillors next week.

The land adjacent to The Cherry Gardens pub in Wigan Lane, Wigan, is currently the subject of a 999-year leasehold held by Wigan Council.

New trees being planeted

New trees being planeted

The new owners of the Cherry Gardens pub, Jersey-based New River Retail, have approached the council to buy the lease back to allow future development of the land.

The company has advised the council that they have identified an opportunity to develop a convenience store on the land with revenue from the development enabling investment in the pub.

The land is subject to a covenant in the lease restricting any development of the site which is not consistent with the use of the land as a public garden.

However the council has revealed that if it surrenders its lease to the owners of the pub they would be free to release the covenant and to use the site for other uses, subject to planning permission.

Since the controversial proposals were first made public the council has received 190 objections, and the local community has formed The Friends of the Cherries Garden group and have leafleted homes throughout Swinley and Whitley appalling for support in their campaign to reclaim the land as a space for all under The Deal.

The objections include the fact that the land is part of the Wigan Lane Conservation Area, and that it will have an impact on traffic and road safety, especially near to such a busy roundabout. Residents are angry that many did not learn about the proposals until after the deadline for objections had passed.

They are urging supporters to email their views to the Leader, Coun David Molyneux or post them to the Town Hall before next week’s meeting.

The group have been working tirelessly over the last few weeks to restore the land to its former glory, even planting a new cherry tree and now have projects in the pipeline for community and school events.

The former Labour deputy leader of Wigan Council, John O’Neill, says he is “dead against” the development for historical, aesthetic and practical reasons.

The long-time councillor and local historian, said: “It would be horrendous, tragic.

“Wigan Lane is the finest road in Wigan and decisions are being taken that erode that.

“I am very concerned about the junction for a start, but there are reasons not to lose this land for local heritage reasons too.

“The growing of cherry trees in Wigan Lane and Standish was widespread for hundreds of years, going back to the time of George III and before.

Because it was a fast-growing crop, people could quickly produce a lot of fruit for both sale and their own consumption.

“The Cherry Gardens pub and the adjoining land are the last remnant and reminder of this practice and it would be a huge shame to lose the land to a shop.”

Wigan Council’s Cabinet will make the decision on whether to sell the land at its meeting next week.

Penny McGinty, Wigan Council’s assistant director for corporate contracts and assets, said: “Cabinet members are being asked to consider the objections received and to determine whether these provide sufficient justification to prevent the sale of the land at Cherry Gardens.

“This decision is set to take place at the council’s next Cabinet meeting on Thursday, August 2.”