Demolition of hall turned down but future unclear

Exterior of Formby Hall, Alder Street, Atherton
Exterior of Formby Hall, Alder Street, Atherton

WIGAN Council has spoken about the reasons given for turning down a planning application to bulldoze a popular community hub.

The local authority says concerns over the disturbance to local residents and insufficient details over the future of the site led to the rejection of the proposal to flatten Atherton’s popular Formby Hall.

The Alder Street venue is under threat as it has been bought by the Formby Hall Investments (FHI) group, which wants to build a nursing home and flats for independent supported living on the site.

However, Wigan Council has also told campaigners looking to save the venue that refusal to allow demolition to take place does not mean the building is necessarily safe.

A town hall spokesman said: “The prior notification application for demolition has been refused by Wigan Council, as the local planning authority, since it was considered that there were insufficient details to ensure the demolition works did not cause unnecessary disturbance, and that the site was suitably restored.

“The applicant now has the option of either appealing the decision or making a further application with additional details seeking to overcome those concerns.

“Any such future application will be considered on its own merits by the council.

“It has been suggested that the refusal of the prior notification application secures the long term future of the hall; to avoid raising the community’s expectations, it is important to clarify that this is not the case.”

The spokesman also said the town hall had responded to a petition signed by thousands of Atherton residents calling on the council to help return the hall to public use and support investment in it.

The letter, written by deputy chief executive Paul McKevitt, says the local authority is satisfied the sale of Formby Hall to 8th Wonder Properties was legal as the transfer arrangements placed no restriction on the town hall’s ability to dispose of the building.

The council also stated the demolition would be in breach of the covenants placed on Formby Hall without obtaining planning permission or paying an uplift to take into account the changed value of the site after bulldozing the building.

Formby Hall has also been made an asset of community value (ACV) by Wigan Council following an application by the South East Lancashire (SEL) branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra).

This means it is harder to change its use and community groups can bid to run it if the owner wants to dispose of it.