Straight answers sought by the Wigan businesses who are most disrupted by the Galleries25 transformation
Demolition work is set to begin on Wigan’s Galleries shopping centre within weeks - yet many of its surviving occupants are unsure what the future holds
A £190m transformation masterplan was given the green light by the council in November and it will see most of the complex - only completed in the early 1990s - razed to be replaced largely with leisure, hospitality and retail premises plus a new market.
The Galleries25 project is expected to take three years to complete.
A hotel, 464 homes and a multimedia centre with a cinema, 10-lane bowling alley and indoor mini-golf are planned in what is a joint venture partnership between the local authority and developers Cityheart and BCEGI UK. A new market hall, shops and office space have also been proposed.
It is the biggest change to Wigan town centre since the Galleries were built - bigger even than the Grand Arcade’s development 15 years ago - and was prompted by so much of the current site being unused due to the decline of high street retail.
Are they moving to other parts of town, are they moving out of Wigan completely? Are they giving up or haven’t they made their minds up and waiting to see what options are presented to them?
Well, there are certainly some with plans and others who remain in the dark.
Richard West, who is a volunteer at Bookcycle, said: “We haven’t a clue what we’re doing.
“With the market set to stay where it is until 2024 and with us being so near we are assuming we will have a similar date range.
“Our shop is considered the flagship store out of the three so I hope when we
do get more of an idea of when we’re moving, our
customers follow us wherever we go.”
Tony Porter, who owns Games N More and has previously spoken of decamping to Chorley, said: “Us businesses have had no support from the council; it’s been terribly handled.
“I haven’t been told that my unit is being knocked down.
“I’m aware of what is going on around me but I have had no communication from the council about what happens to my shop.
“I know that the shops opposite me are being flattened for a car park and they are all getting levelled in February, meaning the Galleries car park will be closed from then too, which will reduce trade.
“The shops on the opposite side on Market Street are being knocked down from April onwards as they are all being told to get out by March. I don’t even know if my shop will still be here when the car park opens.
“I’ve looked for other premises in the town centre but they’re too expensive.
“Its frustrating because I can’t plan. I haven’t slept in months for trying to figure out what do with all my stock and where to move it to.”
With the majority of shops staying put until they are told otherwise, some are concerned about their footfall being based in a building site.
Mr Porter added: “Being situated in a construction zone is real going to damage business. Who wants to come to a shop that will be surrounded with building equipment and noise pollution?
“There’s supposed to be a walkway constructed to allow people to access shops like myself and the market but again we’ve had no confirmation.”
Despite some places having no idea what their plans are, one business has already found alternative premises.
Angie Rava, who owns Glamour Point, said: “We are moving into the current Game store next to Wilko, hopefully in February, but we haven’t had an exact date yet.
“We’ve been given a bit of leeway with when we have to leave by because it’s not quite ready for us yet.
“It has actually done us a favour because we’ve been wanting to move for a while.”
The market phase of Galleries25 is one of the latter ones so the majority of traders are still unsure about the structure of the replacement. They say they still plan to move to the new hall - so long as the rent is reasonable.
One stallholder said: “I plan on moving into the new market, but there hasn’t been much communication from the council and the developers.
“We’re supposed to have meetings every six weeks so we find out what to expect.”
Chris Stewart, who owns Nuts about Health, said: “I am slightly sceptical about where we’re being moved to.
“The plans they’ve shown us seem nice enough but we won’t know the issues until we move.
“My issue is I’ve built this business up to where it is now and would only look to expand further, but if the new units aren’t going to be suitable then I will look elsewhere.
“I have been offered a unit but not been told how much it will cost so until then I’m unable to plan.”
David Holme, co-owner of Bickershaw Hall Nurseries, said: “We will be moving as long as its reasonable.
“Its is obviously a massive expenditure so they’ll be looking to get some money back, but hopefully rent won’t be too expensive.
“Multiple generations of my family have ran the stall so it would be the end of an era if we couldn’t afford to move.”
Robert Ogden, who is the co-owner of Dazzlers and has been on the market for over 40 years, said: “We will be moving when its ready.
“Our biggest concern is the reduce in trade we will have being in a building site for the next few years.
“The council has offered us a 30 per cent reduction in rent if we can prove our takings have gone down but because most of our sales are done on card it will look like our income is increasing when in fact it will be static or going down.
“Where they want to put us no business has ever succeeded and the plans show the all won’t be tall enough so I am incredibly dubious.
“I feel as though I can’t get a straight answer from anyone. They don’t know how big the stalls are going to be and they don’t know much the rent is, we’re completely in the dark.”
A Wigan Council spokesperson said: “The Council, together with its development partner CityHeart, have been undertaking detailed and continuous communications with the relevant stakeholders within the town. These stakeholders include local business and the market traders.
“The engagement has included letters and emails as well as regular face to face meetings.
“Following the grant on planning permission in November 21, work has been progressing on a number of key matters.
“This work includes correspondence with each of the impacted businesses on the requirement to vacate their premises and when, as well as with market traders to keep them up to date with current developments.
“The new market is scheduled to be completed in 2024, and details of the size, cost and lay-out of stalls will be progressed in good time prior to the new market hall opening, but are not yet available.”
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