Haigh Hall access woe as gates are locked

The locked gates faced by Haigh Hall Woodland Park users near the hall
The locked gates faced by Haigh Hall Woodland Park users near the hall

Park users have pleaded for more understanding in the ongoing battle over access around Haigh Hall.

But hotel bosses and Wigan Council say the rear gates, behind the grade I listed landmark, must remain closed at certain times.

The developments comes after more frustration erupted over the gates, leading to the Stables Courtyard, on Sunday.

Peter Thomas, from Aspull, said: “The gates leading down from the Stables Courtyard to the Hall were locked, leaving people with bikes, pushchairs and wheelchairs with no access. The alternative routes were either over rough ground to steep steps or a 15-minute detour via woodland trails.

“The park shows this route on its website but makes no mention of the obstacle course that you would need to overcome. The situation left people in wheelchairs and prams having to be manhandled over fences in an attempt to gain access or face simply turning back.

“Although I can understand why the hotel may want to block access for vehicles, given the access road via New Road, but why would the hotel want stop members of the public from using the main access route?

“The recent investment has been great for the whole park, especially at a time of major financial pressure on local authorities. That said, surely the private and publicly-owned facilities at Haigh can be jointly managed in a more sensible way than this.”

In a joint statement Wigan Council and Contessa Hotels, said hotel renovations were “progressing well” but access still had to be restricted on occasion.

An open day was planned once they are complete:

The statement added: “The gates referred to are an interim solution while Contessa plan for and complete the installation of electronic gates, which will allow people requiring disabled and direct access to contact the hall to open the gates.

“Once the hotel restoration is complete, the gate will be closed at peak times, like weekends, when there are events on, to alleviate any traffic issues and to give wedding guests the privacy required on such special days.

“Pedestrians will still be able to access the hotel and park via the path that runs along the top of the bank from the picnic area to the train station, which provides excellent views over the borough.

“Since the hotel was leased to Contessa we’ve been able to invest more than £3m back into the park which has contributed towards the many improvements including the play area, high ropes, the redevelopment of the stables, new visitor centre and adventure golf. Without this investment we would not have been able to make all of these improvements which has made Haigh Woodland Park the fantastic leisure destination it is today.

“Along with Contessa Hotels, we are continuing to make improvements to the hotel and the park with a picnic area set to be opened by the summer situated near to the train station. We will also be improving signage to ensure visitors are aware of the different areas and access routes to avoid confusion in the future.

“The next phase of the renovation will see an exciting Heritage Lottery bid being made to secure investment for the wider park and woodland, which if successful would see the continued renovation and rejuvenation of the wider Woodland Park and its many interesting features.”

Park patrons and the hotel have been at loggerheads since new white lines were painted on the main drive and gates were erected at the southern entrance.