New road markings at Wigan's Haigh Hall look like "airport runway"
A protest petition has been launched by Wigan country park users after 'airport runway' style road markings appeared on the main driveway leading to Haigh Hall.
More than 1,500 people had signed up to signal their opposition to white lines being drawn on the approach to the grade II* listed landmark.
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Residents fear the move, along with locked gates being installed to the back of the hall, could spell the start of limited public access at Haigh Hall.
The historic hall is the subject of a long lease to Contessa Hotels, which invested Â£6m on the venue to make it the four-star rated centrepiece of a wider redevelopment of the country park.
Council bosses say they are now contacting Contessa in a bid to resolve the dispute.
Andrew Ayres, who launched the petition on the website 38 degrees, said: “The approach to the hall is stunning and with the placement of markings the aesthetic has been ruined completely.
“Furthermore these road markings give the impression that cars now have the first priority – which should never ever be the case in a country park where people are trying to enjoy the great outdoors and get away from cars for a few hours.
“There are some great initiatives at Haigh Woodland Park and they should be commended – but this is a disgrace and judging from public sentiment locals and regular visitors are extremely upset and angered by it.”
Emma Jayne Ainscough told the Wigan Post she had also heard how children had been moved off the grass either side of the driveway.
One regular park user said the markings made the driveway look like “an airport runway”.
Penny McGinty, Wigan Council’s assistant director for corporate contracts and assets, said: “Maintaining access for visitors while preserving the hall has always been a key priority for the council.
“As part of the planning permission Contessa has, they are allowed to build a small car park the front of the hall to accommodate wedding guests at the venue.
“We were not aware that this included road markings and have seen the public reaction to this.
“We’ve also been made aware that padlocked gates have been installed at the back of the hall. We will be seeking to remedy this to ensure visitors can access the drive.
“We will continue to work with Contessa to balance their commercial needs with our commitment to ensuring the hall is accessible to visitors of Haigh Woodland Park.
“In the meantime we’d like to apologise for any inconvenience caused.”
The hall was sold to Wigan Council by the 11th Earl of Crawford, David Lindsay, in 1947, for Â£18,000 and has been a popular backdrop to hundreds of local weddings.
Contessa Hotels was unavailable for comment as the Wigan Post went to press last night.