Drumcroon for sale

The Drumcroon Gallery
The Drumcroon Gallery

DRUMCROON has been put up for sale by the council.

The Parsons Walk based former gallery and art education centre - closed because of government spending cuts in the autumn despite an energetic campaign to save it - is now available for disposal to “sealed bid” buyers.

The surprise move effectively ends any hope of a u-turn by town hall chiefs should any new funding streams become available.

A provisional scheme to secure the use of the 303 square metre floor space building on an interim basis by basing a council department there has also now clearly been abandoned.

But protesters said today that they will fight on in an attempt to reform the award-winning ethos of Drumcroon elsewhere in Wigan, even if retaining the building itself is now “out of reach.”

Town hall property chiefs say the three storey building including coach house, in Mesnes Conservation Area, could be turned into a town centre home, offices or be sold off for community uses.

It is understood - bids close at the end of the month - that they are hoping to be able to realise more than £500,000 from any deal.

Council head of legal John Mitchell said that Drumcroon had been a much valued facility for the young people of the borough and they would like to see it available in that capacity in the future.

He said: “I am pleased that there is active interest in making use of the site.

“We are exploring all possibilities but if it does not prove possible to find a viable or sustainable use, then the sale of the property will go ahead on the open market.

“It is in everyone’s interest that the matter is resolved as quickly as possible so both processes are being progressed.”

But Leader of the opposition Independent Group Coun Gary Wilkes said that the sale of Drumcroon “went against the majority of people’s wishes.”

He claimed it was generating the same level of public disquiet as the closure of much-loved Mere Oaks special school in Standish.

Coun Wilkes said: “The ruling Labour Group has no class and no interest in keeping our culture alive and kicking in Wigan.

“Nothing is safe in their hands and the people of Wigan need to wake up and realise that.

“How can they invest thousands of pounds per year in the running of the Wigan Youth Zone when they have closed and are now selling off Drumcroon immediately next door?

“People need to start asking questions of their Labour councillors.”

Campaigners Friends of Drumcroon revealed they were now convening an immediate meeting to discuss the development and what it will mean for the future of the Drumcroon Gallery Schools Collection of artworks which is now in storage elsewhere.

They are calling for it to be kept together in the face of suggestions within the LEA that it now be broken up into parcels and spread around the schools of Wigan.

They will now be making a direct plea to Lord Smith.

Talks with Boys’ Club sponsor Martin Ainscough about possibly incorporating a form of Drumcroon in the now fast emerging Youth Zone building have failed to progress.

A fund-raising campaign to buy the building from the council was “unlikely,” they concede.

Friends Chairman David Davies - the council’s former assistant chief executive who helped to set up Drumcroon - says the fight to revive the ground breaking art education service it once offered is far from over.

He said: “What we remain interested in is continuing the practice and the ethos of the art education that took place at Drumcroon although that may not now be going to take place again in that particular building. Our on going interest also now remains in the safety and integrity of the school loans collection.

“It was kept at Drumcroon until about three months ago and removed to who knows where because we have never had the courtesy of replies to the two emails we have sent to the authority about the matter.

“We offered to meet council officers and to come up with some alternative workable schemes to ensure that schools and pupils can continue to benefit from it in the years to come even though Drumcroon itself is very sadly no more.

“There attitude to date has been cavalier and very rude and has personally aggravated me as a former senior officer of the LEA. My way of working was always do as I would be done by.”