THE future of Ashton Town Hall has taken a dramatic twist as the historic building is set to become a healthcare facility.
Wigan Council had planned to put the site up for auction this week, prompting a residents’ petition calling for it to become a community hub.
In 2010 I made it my number one priority to secure a new health facilityYvonne Fovargue MP
Instead, the local authority has secured a deal with Eric Wright Health and Care which has been working alongside Wigan’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
The plans have been praised by Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue and Wigan Healthwatch chair Sir Ian McCartney.
Ms Fovargue said: “In 2010 I made it my number one priority to secure a new health facility for the Ashton and Bryn area and continue the work of my predecessor, Sir Ian McCartney who had campaigned for a new primary care facility.
“We have had many ups and downs since then, a major national health reorganisation and the economic downturn all contributed to the delay but the sale of the Town Hall site is a giant step in the right direction.
“My constituents deserve the best health care facilities so it is vital that all partners now work together to deliver this project and I will be requesting further meetings to ensure timely progress.”
Former Makerfield MP Sir Ian said: “It’s a dream come true. Ten years of fighting for better health services in Ashton town centre, and time and again plan getting dropped.
“On a personal level this project was unfinished business. Healthwatch Wigan is happy to work with the council and the NHS to ensure a comprehensive set of services for the people of Ashton. They have waited long enough.”
The town hall had been found to be in a deteriorated state and unsuitable for use and has been empty since 2013. The council had explored options to establish a clinic on site but had put it up for auction as a last resort.
The Leader of Wigan Council, Lord Peter Smith, said: “We are very pleased to announce we are withdrawing Ashton Town Hall from public auction following a number of bids from interested parties. We listened to the concerns of residents at a recent have your say session as part of The Deal in action and told them finding a site for a health centre remained high on our agenda. We have always shared the ambition of residents to have this site developed for health use and we are delighted this will now progress.”
Julie Southworth, Director of Quality and Safety at NHS Wigan Borough CCG, said: “We have been working hard with all our partners to resolve the issues around the location of the new health centre in Ashton. A new health centre means better and more modern facilities for the patients, so we are delighted that this opportunity to develop Ashton Town Hall in to the new health centre has been agreed.”
Sir Ian McCartney, Chair of Healthwatch Wigan, has said: “It’s a dream come true. Ten years of fighting for better health services in Ashton Town Centre and time and again plan getting dropped. For myself this project was unfinished business. Healthwatch Wigan is happy to work with the council and the NHS to ensure a comprehensive set of services for the people of Ashton. They have waited long enough.”
Christine Winstanley, Director of Eric Wright Health and Care, said: “We are pleased to have been able to secure the Town Hall site for a new health facility in Ashton. We have worked with our partners across Ashton, Leigh and Wigan for a number of years through our public private partnership and are really excited at the prospect of working with our local stakeholders to develop this new facility in the heart of Ashton.”
Ashton ward’s Coun Bill Clarke said: “I am delighted with this news. After many years of campaigning by local Labour councillors, Sir Ian McCartney and Yvonne Fovargue MP and members of the public this announcement will mean we are one step nearer to the building of a much needed Health centre for Ashton.”
“From now on my ward colleagues and I will be doing our best to ensure that this important project comes to fruition within the near future.
“I will also be ensuring that important historical artifacts contained within the current Town Hall are retained for future generations and my ward colleagues and I have met with council officers to begin this process.”