Council responds to criticism and questions over Wigan shopping centre transformation

The unveiling of the ambitious £130m redevelopment of The Galleries led to the town hall fielding queries from curious residents as well as some negative feedback.

Friday, 1st January 2021, 7:00 am
An impression of part of the redevelopment scheme

Now the town hall has responded to some of the issues which have been raised.

The council defended the scale of spending on Wigan town centre, which led activists and councillors in other parts of the borough described as excessive.

The local authority said there were plans for all town and district centres but the drift to online shopping demanded action, which was why the council had bought The Galleries.

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Becca Heron, Wigan Council director of economy and skills

It said a Strategic Regeneration Framework for Leigh would be published next year, setting out priorities, guiding investment and opening up opportunities for outside funding.

There was also considerable unease about the choice of Beijing Construction Engineering Group International (BCEGI), a Chinese state-owned firm, as one of the partners.

However, the council did not engage with the calls for the borough to distance itself from China, saying that BCEGI, along with Cityheart, is based in the UK and they were both selected on the quality of their proposals.

This included plans to employ local workers, take on apprentices and spend money in the local supply chain.

Questions were also raised about the area remaining public space and the land not being privately-owned.

The council said it would still own The Galleries complex once work was complete, although the residential part of the scheme might differ.

It said it is committed to the complex being accessible and a space the public can freely enjoy.

The council also responded to claims of this being the wrong time to spend money, saying it would continue to provide full Covid-19 support but the pandemic had accelerated the high street’s woes.

The town hall also promised to preserve the heritage and character of the area, saying Wigan has a beautiful town centre. However, it said the development would also have a modern look.

Finally, the council addressed concerns about public involvement in developing the plans.

It said there had been numerous surveys, drop-ins and consultations and people had also been able to say how Covid-19 had impacted on them.

It encouraged people with ideas for the scheme to submit them via the website.

Becca Heron, director of economy at Wigan Council, said: “The need for intervention is greater than ever as our town looks to recover from Covid-19, so doing nothing is not an option.

“This isn’t a plan that has been decided and executed overnight.

“In the new year, we will engage again with those directly affected by these proposals, such as retailers and traders, to ensure minimal disruption. Over the next 12 months, we’ll work with

Galleries25 to receive the relevant planning permissions and hone plans.

“This the biggest project the council has embarked on and we will continue to provide timely updates to instil pride and to take the public with us on this transformative journey.

“Although 2020 has been very challenging, these plans signal a bright and exciting future for Wigan.”

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