Dispute over park inquiry costs

Coun Gareth Fairhurst
Coun Gareth Fairhurst
  • Council claims “unnecessary” inquiry cost £36k
  • Applicant Coun Gareth Fairhurst disputes figures
  • Responds to Wigan Today with swear word

A WAR of words between the town hall and a councillor over the future of a Wigan park has continued despite the conclusion of a public inquiry.

Coun Gareth Fairhurst said council figures stating the two day hearing had cost taxpayers’ £36k were overstated.

Jackanory time with this one

Coun Gareth Fairhurst

And when asked to comment by Wigan Today, the representative of Standish ward included a swear word in his response and declined to provide an alternative without profanity.

Town Hall bosses had originally priced the inquiry as having cost £32k but have now revised that figure.

Coun Fairhurst had tried to gain Village Green status for Ashfield Park but the bid was recommended for rejection by a government inspector.

The opposing sides have been at odds for years with the council maintaining they have no plans to build on the park, a claim the councillor disputes.

Deputy leader of Wigan Council Coun David Molyneux said: “The cost of this unnecessary inquiry could have been better spent in so many ways.

“We always maintained that the park was safe from any kind of development and we are standing by that message.”

The rejection was officially accepted by the council’s regulation committee last week.

The quoted figures included £8,475 on inspector’s fees, £21,100 for council barrister and solicitor costs and registration authority costs of £6,000.

In his foul-mouthed response and later on his personal blog, Coun Fairhurst claimed these figures inflated the wages of the council’s in-house legal officers.

Adding he believes the true cost at being around the £23,000 mark as the officers would still have been paid for their time even if the inquiry had not taken place.

He described this total as “small” when compared with “up until recently this Labour controlled council spent £75,000 on free meals and drinks for councillors.”

Adding: “Jackanory time with this one.”

Coun Fairhurst had earlier been accused by the council of misleading residents by not fully disclosing where funds raised for the Save Ashfield campaign had been spent.

But the outspoken councillor, who represents the Standish Independents Party, hit back, telling planning inspector Alan Evans during the inquiry: “It was with disgust that I have on many occasions, including today, read that the objector (Wigan Council) refers to me, as the applicant, as wasting time and money on this public inquiry.

“So when the objector (the council) says this has been a waste of time and money, while they may be trying to inflict some pain on me, I think they’re being disrespectful to you, Sir.” He said that all the money raised for the campaign could be accounted for.

The council is now proposing to extend historic park status to the whole of Ashfield Park and will include a specific policy to restrict further applications for housing development in Standish as part of its allocations plan.

Residents are being asked to take part in the council’s consultation on the plan which maps out future developments across the borough.

To take part, visit www.wigan.gov.uk/allocationsplan to leave feedback and learn more about the plans.