The row over Wigan’s jewel-in-the-crown’s transformation into a hotel is rumbling on after campaigners questioned its heritage status.
The Friends of Haigh Hall Heritage and Open Access for All group has accused Wigan Council and Historic England of not making any real efforts to monitor work being done at the grade-II listed landmark by Contessa Hotels.
It then expressed bafflement at how it could be decided that the hall could have its Historic England condition moved down the at-risk list.
Wigan Council recently hailed a decision to alter the building’s grade to “fair” rather than “poor”, although the change of status had happened last November when the at-risk register was updated.
However, campaigners claim only three of the 16 planning conditions attached have actually been completed.
And they say the national organisation supposed to be overseeing heritage buildings bases its decisions on what local authorities tell them about at-risk properties.
And, though it disputed strongly the campaigners’ version of events, Historic England was unable to tell this newspaper when an officer had last visited Haigh Hall to check on the building.
A campaign group spokesperson said: “We were shocked to hear the news that it had been decided to downgrade the status to fair, when 13 of the 16 planning conditions are still outstanding. Only recently a member of the group has submitted a complaint concerning the lack of progress against planning conditions along with the general quality of work and health and safety issues.
“It feels like the community is having to step in and do the work one would expect from Wigan Council’s planning department. It feels like Wigan Council has given our hall away and washed their hands of any responsibility.
“We have been in contact with Historic England and have been told that it doesn’t get closely involved in development once planning permission and listed building consent have been granted. The local authority leads on this.
“It is as if they don’t care. There appears to be no interest in ensuring that work is completed or that the workmanship is of a quality standard.”
Haigh Hall remains on Historic England’s at-risk register with its condition listed as ‘fair’. It has a priority of F, meaning that there is a “repair scheme in progress” and an end use or user has been identified.
Historic England has said the building will not come off the at-risk register until repairs are complete and the building is fully occupied. It also confirmed a site visit would have to take place before Haigh Hall comes off the register.
However, the organisation’s method statement admits visiting each of the more than 5,000 entries on the register annually is “far beyond the resources” it has.
Because of this it has to work “in partnership with local planning authorities, town and parish councils, amenity groups, community organisations and individuals (including owners)”.
Marie Bintley, assistant director for Wigan Council, said: “Last year, Haigh Hall was graded as ‘fair’ from ‘poor’ by Historic England as a result of the works to make the building secure and watertight.
“Having an end use for the building along with a long term plan is key to ensuring its long-term viability and potential removal from the Heritage At Risk Register entirely.”