Work is under way to rehabilitate one of Wigan’s longest-running eyesores.
St John the Baptist CE Junior School, in New Springs, closed its doors in 2001 and during the intervening 17 years it has fallen into an increased state of dilapidation.
But the man who bought this prominent Wigan Road landmark says he is finally ready to put at least some of it to good use: as a children’s nursery.
The overgrown front of the building has already been all but cleared of undergrowth and roof repairs are nearing completion.
Then Simon Jones says he is keen to get stuck into the interior so that the new business can open early next year.
The nursery will occupy most of the building on the roadside although the whole of the premises’ facade will be restored.
One further classroom and the old school hall at the rear will remain unoccupied for now.
Businessman Mr Jones is still holding out hope that the council will yet allow the building of homes at the rear of the site which would require an access road and at the same time provide an adequate point of entry to the hall, perhaps as some kind of public building such as a community centre.
The present road and access arrangements would not allow for anything attracting vehicles in any number.
No planning permission is needed for the new venture and the project also ensures the future of a blue plaque on the front wall to the New Springs-born star of screen and stage, Frank Randle.
Mr Jones said: “An awful lot of people have expressed an interest in running a nursery in the old school and I have agreed a deal with somebody.
“Even if they pulled out there are others waiting in the wings so it looks like this is going to happen
“There are still options for the hall and fourth classroom, which may depend on what happens with the council and any homes that might get built, but at the moment we are concentrating on the nursery.
“It will certainly smarten up the street as well as meeting a good local need.
“Once it looks a lot better that might encourage more interest in the remainder of the building away from the road.”
Mr Jones bought the school building nine years ago and originally planned to turn it into homes until the recession knocked the bottom out of the market. The junior school closed in 2001 with its pupils moving to the infant site.
Three years later this also closed on the establishment of the new Canon Sharples Primary School.
A covenant had stipulated that if the premises ever ceased to be a school or have any other educational purpose then it would revert to the estate of the Earl of Crawford, he of Haigh Hall fame.
However it is understood the current Earl, these days based in Scotland, waived this rule and so the Church of England was able to sell it to Mr Jones.