Fresh anger in Haigh Hall access row
A war of words between protesters and hotel bosses at Haigh Hall shows no signs of abating after weekend talks.
Controversial moves, which have seen operators Contessa paint white lines along the main drive at the historic venue, and the locking of rear gates, have caused weeks of frustration on both sides.
Residents have now been told that access to the front of the hall will be restricted between 8am and 6pm during the week and during events.
And a new picnic area is being created, away from the main drive and close to the pond, which has further infuriated campaigners.
Dozens of protesters assembled outside the grade II* listed building, the former home of the Earls of Crawford, at around noon on Sunday, to put their concerns to hotel management.
The proposed mass protest picnic was cut short by the weather overnight on Saturday and Sunday - though several families still brought sandwiches to have lunch on the hall’s front lawn.
Two police community support officers even turned up for the protest, which remained peaceful, as hotel guests continued to arrive and leave.
Independent councillor Bob Brierley, who attended the protest, said: "What there needs to be here is some compromise. If the hotel had an executive wedding then all they would have to do is fence off certain areas where the public cannot go."
Janet Brown, from Shevington, added: "This is listed on the Ordnance Survey map as a right of way, People are so angry because it’s their heritage which has been sold off.
"People with wheelchairs and pushchairs, and elderly people, are saying that they cannot use that top pathway."
One nearby resident, who asked not to be named, said: "This was a chance for people to express their feelings.
"We believe the hotel is in breach of the terms of the lease not to hinder public access, where there has been access previously."
Another resident added: "It should really be the council here answering questions because they are the ones who are responsible for this."
Park users have also been upset over the number of trees which have been removed. But Contessa insists their aboricultural work has led to improved views across the valley.
Hotel director Mr Baker has previously told the Observer that the lines were introduced because of the ongoing conflict between motorists and pedestrians along the drive, which brings guests to the venue from a new entrance on School Lane.
Mr Baker has said there is a requirement to keep the rear gates closed during peak times and during events.
Council chiefs say the lengthy lease given to Contessa has enabled extensive investment in several other aspects of Haigh Hall Woodland Park.
And it has also been stated the path along the ridge, which connects with the children’s play area, is fully compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act.
A Wigan Council spokesman said: "Maintaining access for visitors while preserving the hall has always been a key priority for the council, Contessa and the wider Haigh Woodland Park plan. We are continuing to work with Contessa on this issue and will keep the public updated on this and other matters raised."
Mr Baker was unavailable for further comment.