Controversial plan for alcohol licence at Pennington Flash gets green light

Plans for a new licence at a Wigan borough beauty spot for music events and alcohol sales have been approved after being scaled back.

Wigan Council came under fire from objectors after Leigh Sports Village, the applicant, wanted to attain a licence to sell alcohol and hold music events at Pennington Flash Country Park in Leigh until 1am – but this was changed.

The local authority received dozens of complaints about the original application – which is why there was a change of heart from LSV.

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Drawings of what the proposed new visitors centre could look like at Pennington Flash in Leigh

There was wide concern that big events could disturb wildlife in the nature reserve and bring drunken anti-social behaviour to the area.

However, the scaled back plan of a licence until 10.30pm was still not good enough for some protestors who believe licences should not be granted for wildlife spots.

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Andrew Hogg, one objector speaking at the licensing committee meeting at Wigan Town Hall, said: “This licence application was submitted without assessing the ecological and environmental impact on the Nature reserve.

"There was no involvement with any of the interested parties in this licence application.

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“This was extremely disappointing – there was no third party consultation with involved groups such as LOS or Pennington Flash volunteers prior to the licence application.

"This has resulted in a breakdown of trust with stakeholder groups and many local residents in the Leigh area. An ‘open ended’ licence is not appropriate in any nature reserve.

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“Due to the ecological sensitivity and national importance and reputation of this site, it is essential for the potential impact of any leisure or entertainment events to be investigated thoroughly.

"Specific and enforceable limitations need to be put in place to protect this very special nature reserve – which is primarily a reserve for ‘nature’ and not for ‘entertainment’.

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“A blanket ‘flexible’ licence is not appropriate in a nature reserve, and on behalf of Leigh and Lowton residents I would urge the sub-committee to reject the application in its entirety.

"I would recommend a full consultation with the local community and stakeholder groups linked to Pennington Flash NR around licensing and any events in the nature reserve.”

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Mr Hogg also pointed out that there are no other licensed premises open from 11am up to 10.30pm within a nature reserve anywhere in the area.

James Winterbottom, director of digital, leisure and wellbeing services, said: “The licensing application was amended to give a more accurate reflection of our plans for the site.

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"Nature has always been and will always remain our key priority at Pennington Flash.

"There is an opportunity, however, to enhance the current offer for residents and visitors with the staging of limited, well managed events at which alcohol is served.

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“Residents can be assured that any such events will be developed in collaboration with Leigh Ornithological Society and will be in keeping with Pennington Flash’s status as a treasured nature reserve.”

Pennington Flash is part of a country park with the lake and surrounding marshland home to a diverse group of mammals, birds and insects, including five RSPB red listed birds and the protected water vole.

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Its importance for birds is recognised nationally, with over 230 species recorded on site, including the black-faced bunting, nightingale, cattle egret, whiskered tern and Leach’s petrel.