Flood-prone sport pitches to be drained at long last

A potential solution to improve drainage at Leigh's most flooded playing field has been approved.

Leigh Marshes were not given that name without reason
Leigh Marshes were not given that name without reason

Council leisure bosses are set to spend just over £200,000 on ridding Leigh Marshes of what is a seasonal headache.

For years the site, off Wigan Road, has been unplayable at certain times of the season as the football and rugby pitches lie under several inches of water.

But Wigan Council has now appointed a contractor, Duncan Ross Ltd, to begin the process of installing the underground pipework necessary to alleviate the difficulty.

And Coun Myra Whiteside, Labour councillor for Leigh West, who has lobbied for the field to be considered a priority under the borough’s playing fields strategy, is in talks with local firm Brookhouse to overhaul changing rooms there.

Coun Whiteside said: “It has taken us some time but a lot of this has been dictated by the weather.

“There were also great crested newts found nearby so we have had to create a series of ponds for them as they are a protected species.”

Michael Fishwick, the council’s greenspace officer, said in a report: “This proposal will increase the participation rates of grassroots sports within Leigh West and surrounding wards, thus increasing social and health and wellbeing for the population.

“The increased usage will provide increase revenue for the council.”

Earlier this year it was reported in the local media how the presence of great crested newts had brought a temporary halt to the project.

Council engineers had got as far as drawing up designs for a suitable drainage system.

But a combination of mitigation measures for these salamanders and frequent downpours, had led to delays until “drier” months ensued.

The local authority had to obtain a special licence from Natural England in order to deal with the newts, which were detected on a pond close to the fields.

Under European law, disturbing the tiny creatures, or their eggs, can lead to an unlimited fine or a six-month jail term on conviction, despite their being the biggest newt species in Britain.

The drainage announcement comes nearly a decade after its future was threatened by a proposed access road.

Developers wanted to run a route across Leigh Marshes, as part of proposals for an employment scheme to regenerate the former Parsonage Colliery site.

Work is currently ongoing for a road, on the edge of the marshes, leading to an approved housing scheme, on nearby land.