Masterplan advances for trio of sport hubs in borough

Football at Laithwaite Park
Football at Laithwaite Park
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Kick-off is drawing closer for a multi-million pound sports facility scheme in Wigan.

For a council committee has given its approval for phase two of the borough’s Parklife project.

Part-funded by the Football Association, Premier League and Sport England, it will provide three hubs with state-of-the-art facilities.

The council has already invested £54k into the scheme, covering costs for initial works to establish the locations of the three hubs; Howe Bridge (Atherton), Laithwaite Park (Newtown) and William Fosters (Ince).

Phase two of the scheme will see the town hall invest a further £166k for detailed designs and planning application preparation.

It is expected to be rubber-stamped by the council’s ruling cabinet later this month.

The overall cost of the scheme is expected to be £17m of which the council would be required to contribute £6.9m, according to a town hall report.

All costs are split 60/40 between Parklife and the local authority, with the council’s share found through “prudential borrowing,” according to a committee report.

The hubs will provide facilities for local teams at favourable rates with a proportion of Parklife’s profits reinvested across remaining council playing fields to improve grass roots sport.

The council says it could make an annual saving of £210k by reducing its operational costs on the sites of the Parklife hubs.

Each will include several grass and artificial pitches in addition to changing room facilities and could be in place by 2020.

A committee report said the borough has a shortfall of artificial pitches, and Lancashire FA – of which Wigan is a member – had the highest percentage of matches postponed due to poor pitches in the 2017/18 season.

Coun Jim Moodie said: “It’s a flagship thing for the FA, Sport England and the Premier League; they want this to work and it is working in Sheffield (already).

“It’s a range of things, the quality of the facility is not just about putting the pitches in, it’s the facilities, it’s the parking, it’s the security of it.

“The three areas have been picked, we’ve tried to establish the areas there will be a need for it and there’s a social side to it. It means investment for us, but it ticks a load of boxes for us. I think this flagship scheme is going to be cascaded across the country. It’s a tremendous opportunity and we’re in right from the very beginning, so I think it’s all win-win for us.”

Coun Lynne Holland said: “Coming from a background of grass-roots football and knowing a lot of local clubs before I ever became a councillor, I think it’s brilliant. It’s not just about playing football it’s about what it’ll do health wise for our young kids, it’s brilliant.”

A report, tabled at the confident council scrutiny committee, outlined the council is not fully committed to the scheme if it approves stage two as there is a possibility “it may establish the project is not viable.”

If that happened, the council would lose the £221k it would have invested up to that stage. If the council does commit, the designs and operational details for each hub would return before the scrutiny committee and cabinet.