EXCLUSIVE: Haigh Hall's bid team react to "fantastic" £20m Levelling Up investment

The team tasked with reviving a key Wigan landmark have expressed their delight at receiving a £20m grant from the Government.

The Haigh Hall Masterplan was one of 15 projects awarded funding from the £594m Levelling Up pot in the North West and will transform the Grade II* listed hall, giving visitors the opportunity to learn about the borough’s rich heritage and history, while providing a welcoming space for visitors

The premises are set to become a hive of activity under plans produced by Wigan Council and artists Al and Al, after it was transferred back to the local authority’s control in 2021 after an unsuccessful stint as a hotel.

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A new world class dining experience, an underground bunker cinema, an art gallery for local artist Theodore Major’s “visionary work”, and a rooftop terrace for astronomy are set to be welcomed additions to the space.

From left, Coun Ron Conway, Coun Laura Flynn, Ian Boardman and Joanne Smith from Friends of Haigh Hall and Open Access group, Coun Chris Ready, James Winterbottom director of digital, leisure and wellbeing at Wigan Council and creative directors Al and Al (front).
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Bids to regenerate Ashton and Leigh town centres weren’t successful, although Wigan Council says it is committed to mounting further bids in the future.

Cabinet member for communities and neighbourhoods, Coun Chris Ready, said: “We have been dealing with Haigh Hall for a number of years now and we’ve been burning the midnight oil trying to get stuff here.

"So the announcement about the £20m was absolutely fantastic.

Representatives of Wigan Council, local councillors, members of Friends of Haigh Hall and creative directors who created the masterplan of the new Haigh Hall plans, are delighted at the Levelling Up £20m funding. Councillor Chris Ready is delighted with the news.

"It will make such a difference to the hall and the area,

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"Its something we’ve been working towards.

"For the people who come here daily, it’s 20 million reasons why we are going to improve the area.”

James Winterbottom, who is the director for digital, leisure and well-being at Wigan Council said: “It’s fantastic news that we’ve received the funding for our magnificent plans for Haigh Hall that were created by an amazing team with our communities.

James Winterbottom director of digital, leisure and wellbeing at Wigan Council.
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"Haigh Hall is dear to the hearts of everybody across the borough and the plan we have put in place will create an amazing visitor destination and a place of national significance.

"It will create jobs and opportunities for our local businesses and apprenticeships. Overall an amazing story for Wigan.”

Ian Boardman from Friends of Haigh Hall and Open Access group said: “It all started with two rusty gates and some white lines and now we’ve succeeded with public right of way being enshrined in law.

"Now we’ve succeeded along with council and Al and Al to restore Haigh Hall and put it back in the public domain for future generations to come from all over the North-West.”

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Creative directors Al and Al, who came up with the masterplan for Haigh Hall.

Joanne Smith from the same group said: “It’s fantastic news that we’ve got the £20m and can bring the hall back to its former glory.

"From my childhood I can remember the hall and being able to go inside.

"What Al and Al have got planned is exceptional and will be such an offer for the North West.

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"The ripple effect will go across the whole borough; we’re really chuffed.

"It’s been four years of hard campaigning and finally its all coming to fruition.”

The plans were drawn up after Al and Al had a “conversation” with the public to find out what they would like to happen to Haigh Hall.

They spoke to around 1,000 people and found common themes, with 85.5 per cent wanting culture, art and heritage at the hall.

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The pair created a masterplan based on three Hs: humanities, hospitality and horticulture.

Al and Al said: “Now we’ve got the Level Up funds we can make that plan a reality.

"It’s amazing news for the borough.

"The hall is loved by everybody and it’s an incredible cash injection into this project.

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“It’s an amazing way of sharing this magnificent heritage.

"This Levelling Up project brings together two very special elements of Wigan heritage – one of them being the jewel and the crown which we all call it but also one of the greatest artist of the 20th century.

"This is going to be a beautiful destination where kids of all ages can come and be inspired.

"It’s an incredible opportunity and it’s going to be a long hard journey over the next three years.

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"When we did the consultation, a couple came in who got married at the hall 60 years ago and we realised this house has been a hall of love.

"We’ve never actually captured that for future generations.

"We can tell stories people’s family stories and show how Wiganers used the hall.”