Plans for music events and late night alcohol sales at Wigan borough park scaled back after public backlash

A public backlash has led to the scaling back of plans for music events and alcohol sales at a Wigan borough park.

By George Lythgoe
Wednesday, 29th June 2022, 8:51 am
Updated Wednesday, 29th June 2022, 8:52 am

Applicant Leigh Sports Village wanted to obtain a licence to sell liquor and hold music events at Pennington Flash Country Park until 1am – but this has been changed.

The application now seeks a licence solely for the visitors centre and the proposed outside terrace until 10pm – excluding the original plan to include the car park, overflow car park and the field opposite the centre.

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

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.

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Campaigners like Andrew Hogg, who lives next to the flash, believe that public nuisance could be brought to the area if live music and dance events are held there until the early hours alongside alcohol sales as the application suggests.

They also argue that this is “clearly in direct contradiction of the Wigan Council policy in relation to the Greenheart ethos and enhancing wildlife and biodiversity in our green spaces”.

“Implementing medium or large scale live music/dance/cinema events with licensed premises will be extremely detrimental to the habitat and wildlife on this Local Nature reserve,” Mr Hogg said.

“I don’t object to events in the area, we have the Iron Man event which I don’t have a problem with, but it is very loud.

“I just don’t see why we should have this in a nature reserve when there are plenty of places like the sports village where they can take place. Selling alcohol and nature reserve just do not go together really.

“There will be so much disturbance for the wildlife.”

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.

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.

The council are assuring the public that they will be protecting the green space and preserve it – and hope that these events can enhance the area. They have stated that this plan, alongside the new visitors centre currently under construction, is supported by Natural England.

Speaking before the change of heart from LSV, James Winterbottom, Wigan Council’s director of digital, leisure and wellbeing, said: “Pennington Flash Nature Reserve is a much-loved asset, and our priority is to cherish and look after this wonderful place for years to come.

"Wigan Council has committed £2.4m to make significant improvements to the flash, to help it become more accessible and inclusive for all.

“Producing a positive and thoughtful plan to bring people and nature together in a considered way is integral to our future vision for Pennington Flash Nature Reserve.

"This is an ambition which is supported by Natural England, whose purpose is to help protect and restore our natural world.

“I’d like to reassure residents that the use of the proposed alcohol and events licence will be limited to very specific, well managed and appropriate events for the setting.

"Each event would be assessed on an individual basis.

“Nature will always remain the key priority at the heart of Pennington Flash and we would like to reassure residents that protecting our wildlife and greenspaces is incredibly important to us.

"Any event requiring the use of the proposed licence will be assessed for its ecological and ornithological impact.”

Mr Winterbottom explained that when developing these proposals, they took inspiration from similar venues, including Brockholes Nature Reserve, RHS Bridgewater and Haigh Woodland Park to ensure they complement the surroundings. The RHS in particular has been a huge success in Salford.

The licensing sub-committee meeting to decide the application will take place on July 4 at Wigan Town Hall.