Picnic protest will highlight Haigh Hall fears
Hundreds of people are expected to turn out for a protest picnic at Haigh Hall on Sunday '“ in response to controversial changes introduced at the historic landmark in recent weeks.
Campaigners are planning a “peaceful” demonstration on the front lawns at the grade II* listed venue after new road markings were painted on the front drive and locked gates were installed at the rear.
Residents and park users have been upset that covenants on the land, said to allow unhindered access through the grounds, are not being respected, after hotel firm Contessa took charge of the location.
Emily McMahon said on Facebook: “They need to listen because Haigh Hall was ours way before they came along. I have many amazing childhood memories and walking through just doesn’t seem right anymore, there’s such an unwelcoming feeling.”
Karen Woodward added: “My presence is purely to object at both Wigan council selling Wiganers out and the hotel company blocking what have been used as public rights of way.”
Hotel bosses say the lines were painted along the drive to prevent conflicts between park users and motorists arriving at Haigh Hall for weddings and other functions.
Craig Baker, hotel director, said 15mph signs had been ignored by drivers – and pedestrians had continued to stray onto the drive and had caused safety concerns.
He told the Wigan Post that the gates had been locked at the rear as a safety and security measure, as the access was used by articulated lorries making deliveries to the premises.
Council bosses, who are understood to have initially been taken by surprise by the alterations, have been attemping to broker a peaceful resolution to the situation. The storm has also seen a protest petition attracting thousands of signatures.
Town hall officials have stressed that since Contessa had leased the hotel, which still belongs to the Earl of Crawford, they had managed to make improvements totalling £3m to the woodland park.