Wigan Council takes back control of Haigh Hall
The keys to Haigh Hall have been handed back to Wigan Council following a high court battle with a hotel operator which has been kicked out the building.
Judge David Hodge QC ruled that Scullindale Global Ltd should vacate the historic hall, leaving its fixtures and fittings, by 1pm on Friday.
Wigan council was required to pay £4.9m to the firm for ending the lease.
However, the hotel operator was ordered to pay all of the council’s costs from the high court case with an interim payment of £270,000 to cover 90 per cent.
Aspull, New Springs and Whelley councillor Chris Ready, who is the portfolio holder for communities, public relations, corporate land, community assets and culture at Wigan council, confirmed the handover has been completed.
He said: “It’s come back in the hands of the council and the people. The people’s palace is back home.
“It will never move away from council ownership ever again. In my lifetime and the leader’s lifetime, it won’t happen.
“It’s the people’s palace and it’s going to stay that way.”
It comes more than a year after the council served notice that it would use a break clause in its contract with the company which leased the listed building.
At the time, Wigan Council said it was seeking to terminate its agreement with the tenant at Haigh Hall due to its ‘failure to comply with terms of the lease’.
The town hall said the lease included milestones by which time development was required to have taken place in accordance with planning permission.
But defendant Scullindale said the council "did not understand" the lease and blamed the local authority for the delays and difficulty with the development.
In April, the high court judge ruled in favour of the local authority.
A spokesperson for Friends of Haigh Hall Heritage and Open Access For All, a campaign group which lobbied the council to break the lease with the hotel operator, said members want the building to be more accessible to the public.
Hundreds of people attended a picnic protests outside at Haigh Hall Woodland Park after white lines were painted on the path leading to the historic building.
The group later applied for this route to be recognised as a public right of way.
However, a spokesperson said many initially welcomed the opening of the hotel in the building which ‘without doubt’ needed investment at the time.
She said: “We think it’s an absolutely perfect hotel venue – providing it’s open.
“We would welcome it if they had a restaurant and cafe – something that residents could use.”
Coun Ready said public access is the ‘number one priority’ for the council now and promised consultation with the public over its plans will be ‘paramount’.
He said the town hall is currently working on a scheme which the cabinet is ‘fully behind’ and hinted that a Heritage Lottery bid could fund future plans.
Further details on the future of Haigh Hall are expected next week.
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