Flats plan could cause town centre gridlock

Wigan town centre could be plunged into total gridlock by huge new apartments, it has been claimed.

Developers have been given the go-ahead to start transforming a former cotton mill into the biggest flats project the borough has seen.

Victorian Rylands Mill complex – latterly Wigan and Leigh College's Pagefield annexe – will be internally refitted and extended to create almost 300 flats overlooking Mesnes Park.

But Wigan's planning committee heard fears that the influx of new residents will create major problems.

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That's because, unlike the student users of the four-storey building, they are likely to have one or maybe two cars each.

That will leave a massive parking shortfall, which opposition Independent Conservative Coun George Fairhurst claims will result in an increasingly fraught scramble behind the wheel for the ever-dwindling amount of on-street parking.

Councillors eventually approved the project by majority vote after assurances from planning chiefs that many flat-dwellers may chose to dispense with a private car altogether because of the development's excellent links with Wigan's bus and two trains stations.

But Coun Fairhurst said: "This is nonsense and it will create gridlock.

"I'd like to bet that more than 90 per cent of the people who buy these flats have a car and many will be couples with at least two, but they are only coming up with 166 spaces.

"That means that we could end up with between 400 and 500 new cars trying to find somewhere to park and a shortfall of at least 126 spaces.

"Let's face facts, shall we, and that is that today nobody will walk and just like most of the councillors here today, they all drive everywhere.

"I keep hearing from planning that people will not have a car and they will use the buses and trains instead but as far as I am concerned that is just cloud cuckoo land.

"Talking to the existing residents they tell me that the cars are already parked all the way up Walkden Avenue and Bridgeman Terrace. They say it's going to be gridlocked and I think that they are right."

Neighbouring resident Stuart Worthington of Kenyon Road also forecast problems.

He said: "There are already more Wigan households with two or more cars than with no car and this development will mean more than 170 extra cars trying to park on the streets in Swinley."

But Metro senior planning officer Graham Dickman said the site was considered sustainable because it was within easy walking and cycling distance of the town centre. Overall parking spaces on offer equated to 55% of the new homes, which is considered appropriate.

And the council would be contributing to a travel plan which would explore car sharing and specific schemes for non-car transport.

He said: "Improved cycle links are proposed between the site and the town centre, including a connection into Mesnes Park which will link into enhanced routes which are to be provided in association with the Mesnes Park Restoration Scheme."

This will include a new shared cycleway along Mesnes Road up to Northway.

Pemberton Labour Coun Jeanette Prescott welcomed the development because of the large number of construction jobs it would create.