Anger at Wigan Council over town centre fund snub

Atherton Independent councillors slam decision not to pursue plans for the town in Government's 'Levelling Up Fund'

Friday, 18th June 2021, 9:08 am
Updated Friday, 18th June 2021, 9:10 am
Atherton town centre
Atherton town centre

Wigan Council has been urged to reconsider a decision not to submit a funding bid for a town centre.

Independent councillors in Atherton asked the town hall to put forward the town for “much-needed” investment through the first round of the Government’s Levelling Up Fund scheme.

This was so the area could start to make progress on a masterplan that was devised after it missed out on a Mayor’s Town Centre Challenge payout.

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Coun Gerrard

The Levelling Up Fund was intended to provide money for local projects and town centre regeneration, with the borough placed in the highest bidding priority category.

The Atherton masterplan provides a number of “shovel-ready” local projects that meet the funding criteria and would drive business and growth in the town.

But the town hall has decided not to pursue the plans because MP support had already been secured in the Bolton West constituency for a planned programme of junction improvements between Westhoughton and Horwich.

Coun Stuart Gerrard slammed the decision.

He said: “These schemes are led by the local authority with backing of the MPs. Of course, Wigan and Leigh yet again even after years of investment (badly spent in my opinion) are again the councils preferred towns for investment.

“I am informed that part of Leigh’s application is for a multi-storey car park.

“After being told this and that Atherton wasn’t to be considered in this round due to not having full backing from both our MPs, we found this to be untrue as Chris Green had not been approached personally.

“We now though have gained both their support formally for the application, but unfortunately it still appears that we won’t be put forward for round one.”

Coun Gerrard said they have been assured that when round two comes, Atherton along with Ashton will be put forward.

He said: “This is by no means a guarantee that the application will be successful, but we do now have the support of ourselves as councillors, our MPs and now the council.”

Rebecca Heron, director of economy and environment at the council said: “We recognise the importance of securing Government funding when it is available. When the Levelling Up Fund was launched we worked to identify bidding opportunities across the whole borough.

“Timescales and criteria were particularly challenging for the first round of bidding. Constraints related not only to the deadline for submissions but also the requirement that investment must begin within the current financial year. We have worked extremely hard to identify projects that not only meet these and the other fund criteria but will also deliver the transformational change needed in our towns.

“A decision was made not to bid for Atherton, which sits in the Bolton West constituency, in this first round because MP support had already been secured in the constituency for a planned programme of junction improvements between Westhoughton and Horwich.

“Under the current bidding criteria, MPs have the option of providing formal support for only one bid, however we are seeking clarification on this from the Government.”

She added: “We have also emphasised that should the round one bid for Bolton be unsuccessful we would wish to explore potential investment priorities for inclusion in a joint round two bid with Bolton Council.”

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