Haigh Hall access battle moves to town hall
An application to have the Haigh Hall route at the centre of a bitter access row dedicated a public right of way has been submitted.
The Facebook group Friends of Haigh Hall Heritage and Open Access for All has sent its paperwork, backed by thousands of Wiganers, to the town hall.
The campaigners have to prove that the way past the 19th century landmark building has been in unhindered use for 20 years or more.
The public has certainly come out in support of the protestors, with almost 20 statements about access and a petition bearing more than 2,500 names being sent to the local authority.
Access to the hall and grounds has been a flashpoint for months as the council has agreed that Contessa Hotels, running a boutique holiday destination in the hall, can close the gates when events are on.
The campaigners, though, say that is against the terms by which Contessa while the alternative path visitors are told to use is dangerous and unsuitable for buggies, prams and wheelchairs.
Submitting the official right of way application marks a major milestone in the drive for unrestricted entry and exit to the area.
A spokesman for the friends’ group said: “We have delivered the application to change the status to get it designated as a public right of way.
“We’re just waiting now. It has taken so much work from everybody in the group who are all working people.
“We’re just so passionate about our access being restricted. We are concerned the current view is going to turn into a pay per view.
“Wigan people are really getting behind us. It shows how important it is to them. It’s part of their heritage and the culture of our town.”
The group has been out leafletting in the grounds of the country park to raise awareness, particularly among older visitors who may not have seen the online campaign.
The protestors have also served legal notice of their application to both Wigan Council and Contessa Hotels.
Mark Tilley, assistant director for infrastructure at Wigan Council, said: “We have received an application to add a public right of way at Haigh Woodland Park.
“Now we will follow the due process for any such application and our teams will be reviewing the submission.”
If the application is successful there will be a public consultation for further evidence to be submitted for and against the right of way.
No objections will mean the new status is granted but if people raise concerns or contrary arguments the planning inspectorate will have to look at the issue.
Contessa Hotels was approached for comment but had not responded as we went to press.
The petition is still available to view at sign on www.thepetitionsite.com
For more information about the campaign, search for Friends of Haigh Hall Heritage and Open Access for All on Facebook or follow it on Twitter @FriendsOpen