Council's plan to help restore Wigan canals to former glory

Wigan’s canals could soon benefit from a regeneration plan which has been rubber-stamped by the council.

Friday, 26th April 2019, 1:22 pm
Updated Friday, 26th April 2019, 2:40 pm
Wigan Pier Quarter with Trencherfield Mill in the background

The town hall has approved a “canalside development and improvement” planning document, which lays out a series of requirements for developers with the aim of rejuvenating the borough’s waterways.

Council chiefs have agreed that space around the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and Bridgewater Canal through Wigan and Leigh is not being used to its “full potential”.

The proposal, which includes input from the Environment Agency, Historic England and the Canal and River Trust, lays out the council’s expectations for future developments.

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The report states: “The canals provide a significant opportunity for investment, development and improvement as part of the wider regeneration strategies set out within the council’s adopted Core Strategy, its Economic Prospectus and town centre masterplans.

“Despite previous investment, the full potential of the canals, not just for development, but for recreation, leisure and the associated health and wellbeing benefits, access and sustainable transport has not been fully realised.

“This Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) will help to realise this potential through securing good design, promoting accessibility and by emphasising the importance of the canals as a resource.”

The document highlights the changing priorities from canal access to car parking space, as one of the reasons for a lack of new developments on the waterfont.

In some areas, access to the canal towpath is limited, which is also cited a reason for the loss of interest in canalside projects.

Under the new proposals, developments will have to “improve access” to the canal towpath and promote biodiversity in the surrounding area.

The document goes on to say: “As far as possible, developments should create new or improved public access to the canal towpath, including through bridges or links to existing bridges where appropriate and new and improved crossing points.”

Developers will also be encouraged to have “pre-application” discussions with the council.

Marie Bintley, assistant director for growth and housing said: “Over the last 30 years the borough’s canals, along with the adjacent land and buildings, have benefitted from significant investment thanks to partnership working between the council, canal owners and other organisations.

“However, we need to harness the full potential of the canals as a resource for the borough and the opportunities they provide for development, investment and quality of environment, which is in line with our commitment to the wider regeneration of the borough.

“We are also very aware of the environmental benefits canals provide including supporting biodiversity, encouraging wildlife movement and helping with urban cooling. Our document relating to canalside improvement will help us to provide developers with advice on what is expected in all new canalside developments with these things in mind.

“We have always demonstrated a commitment to our canals, but this document will give us an even clearer steer on how we can continue this positive work.”