Haigh Hall access petition rejected for debate by Wigan Council
Campaigners unhappy about public access at Haigh Hall have suffered a setback after a public petition was rejected for debate by Wigan Council.
The Friends of Haigh Hall Heritage and Open Access To All group expressed disappointment after the town hall said it would not allow councillors to debate the issue despite the threshold of more than 5,000 signatures being reached.
It is thought the petition has been snubbed due to the campaigners also having a Public Right of Way application for the main asphalt route past the grade-II listed building lodged.
However, the group said it was only a minor hurdle and it was determined to get the matter into the public domain.
It called on social media for a councillor to now submit a motion about Haigh Hall Hotel for debate at full council.
Protesters have complained for months about locked gates on the main drive and the attitude of Contessa Hotels, which is running the landmark hall as a boutique getaway destination, towards the public.
A campaign spokesperson said: “We expected there to be bumps in the road and this is a blip, but we are in this for the long haul and we will overcome it.
“We absolutely want to get this debated. It’s not just about the main driveway, we also have issues with the use of the lawns, and that won’t be covered by the public right of way.
“Our debate is about access, not just paths, so we are looking at other options to have that in public.
“More than 8,000 people signed that petition, more than 7,000 of them local, and support is growing. We are going to keep pushing.
“We are not happy that everything seems to be being brushed under the carpet.”
Brendan Whitworth, assistant director for legal services at Wigan Council, said: “We understand that there is a pending application to the Highway Authority to declare the access a right of way.
“As a result and in line with the petition scheme, we are unable to take the petition to Council at this stage while an alternative process to pursue the issue is available.
“Once we know the outcome of the application to the Highway Authority, we may reconsider this petition at a later date.”
Wiganers have the chance to join the campaign group this weekend for a public show of support at a protest event.
Participants will depart from the plantation gates on Wigan Lane at 12.30pm on Sunday and make their way through to the main drive and front lawns for around 2pm.
There will then be a procession to the gates, which are usually locked now an access point has been created at the side of them, for protestors to tie yellow ribbons to them before there is a picnic while the True Leveller Samba Band provides a suitably lively soundtrack.
To find out more about the campaign group, follow them on Twitter @FriendsOpen
The petition can be viewed by searching for Demand your right to open unrestricted access to the grounds at Haigh Hall Wigan at www.thepetitionsite.com