Housing scheme for former Wigan high school site can finally go ahead

A housing development planned for the former site of a school in Wigan which was caught in a "catch-22" situation can now progress after months of stalling.

Thursday, 11th November 2021, 10:17 am
Updated Thursday, 11th November 2021, 11:26 am
An artist's impression of the new homes

Plans for 61 houses to be built at the former Abraham Guest High School site in Orrell Road were approved by Wigan Council’s planning committee in July.

As part of the plan, the developer agreed to contribute £105,469 towards open space and play improvements at Redwood Park – which is located to the south of the site – and a further £91,860 towards secondary school education.

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The land has stood unused for years

But the development could not progress due to a legal quirk in the agreement.

Planning permission could not be granted until the landowner signed a Section 106 agreement with the local authority to secure the financial contributions.

But in this case, the council owns the land, so it could not sign a deal with itself.

However, the developer would not buy the site so it could sign the agreement until planning permission is formally approved and a decision notice is issued.

The old Abraham Guest High School before a new incarnation was built half a mile away

Wigan council lawyer Simon Ward, who presented the problem to the planning committee on Tuesday (November 9), said he cannot recall a situation like this.

He said: “Unfortunately – and unwittingly – we find ourselves in a bit of a catch-22 situation with this.

“We’re in a bit of a conundrum. But there is, I’m pleased to say, a very easy way to resolve this that allows the planning permission to be issued in advance of the Section 106 agreement being completed.”

A new Section 111 agreement will effectively guarantee that the developer will sign the Section 106 agreement once planning permission is formally granted.

The developer cannot commence development on site until the deal is done.

If the matter is not resolved within six months starting from November 9, a decision will be made at the discretion of the director of economy and skills.

The proposed development features a mix of two, three and four bedroom homes, including town houses, detached and semi-detached dwellings.

A quarter of the houses would be affordable with the remainder sold privately.

It comes after a planning application for an ‘extra care’ scheme with 101 apartments was approved in 2015 – but the development did not go ahead.

Councillors on the planning committee unanimously approved the latest proposal for the site by Morris Homes at a meeting on Tuesday (July 13).

The planning committee voted unanimously in favour of the amendments.

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