Flat schemes would change nature of Wigan and Leigh neighbourhoods

Councillors have blocked plans for multi-occupancy flats in Swinley Road
Councillors have blocked plans for multi-occupancy flats in Swinley Road

Developers pledging to spend £280k to convert properties in Wigan and Leigh into shared accommodation have been blocked by the council.

Bids for Railway Road in Leigh and Swinley Road in Wigan were rejected by the town hall’s planning committee this week.

The decisions will force the respective developers back to the drawing board, with members voicing concerns about the number of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) nearby.

Applicant JRO Properties had pledged a £130k investment for 62 Railway Road to create a 10-bedroom HMO, replacing a ground floor retail unit and existing upper floor accommodation.

However, the bid had attracted objections from ward councillors and planning committee members were told a number of HMOs are already in the vicinity. Speaking in favour of the application, designer Mark Gordon said the number of similar properties in the area was ‘nominal’ and the ‘significant’ level of investment would deliver high quality accommodation.

Coun Fred Walker said: “This is in the middle of a residential area, all the properties at the back and on the other side of the road are typical terrace houses with families in.

“Even then, if there hadn’t already been so many (HMOs) in the area, I would have considered it differently.

“When I see the number we have on Railway Road, it worries me, I hadn’t realised it had got like that and some way or another we need to reverse that trend.”

The vote to follow officers’ recommendation to refuse – which outlined the application would ‘contribute to a material change in the mix of types and tenures of residential accommodation in the area’ – was backed unanimously.

For the Wigan proposals, Swinley Road Property Ltd had bid to convert four flats into one 12-bedroom HMO at a cost of £150k.

It would be refurbished ‘to a high standard’ and would attract professional occupiers, the applicant said.

The plans had also attracted opposition from ward councillors and officers said it would contribute to a ‘material change in the character of the residential area of Swinley’.

Coun Fred Walker said: “This is almost a mirror image in Wigan of what is happening at Railway Road in Leigh.

“We do recognise that there are demands (for HMOs) but the concentration has to take into effect a lot of other issues and community cohesion is vital.

“If we don’t believe in that we shouldn’t even have a planning committee and that’s what we’re trying to demonstrate today; that we care about communities and for certain people we need to provide an amenity, but it’s a balancing act.”

The vote backing the officers’ recommendation to refuse – which included that the development would ‘contribute to a material change’ – was approved unanimously.