Wigan town hall bosses hail £11.4m funding as they approve new school build and rent rises

Wigan town hall bosses have promised to get started with the £11.4m overhaul of Leigh town centre in the new year – but claim they could have been well ahead if they got the money in January.
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At the latest meeting of the cabinet, deputy leader Coun Keith Cunliffe hailed the government decision to award the town with Levelling Up funding.

However, there was still animosity in the air as he took a swipe at Leigh’s MP James Grundy for not supporting the initial bid.

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The Labour Council put forward a bid that did not go far enough in the Conservative MP’s mind – as Mr Grundy wanted the full £20m to be applied for.

Rowan Tree Primary Special School, Green Hall Close, AthertonRowan Tree Primary Special School, Green Hall Close, Atherton
Rowan Tree Primary Special School, Green Hall Close, Atherton
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“I’m pleased to see the Conservative MP for Leigh has welcomed the grant,” Coun Cunliffe told the town hall.

“It’s a pity he didn’t support it originally because if he had we could’ve been a year ahead with it by now.

“It’s now coming into December but I’m sure we will get on with those plans as soon as possible (in the new year).”

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The Leigh MP was happy his town got the funding when the news broke this week, but was steadfast in his view that the full £20m should have been the aim.

There were two other key items up for discussion at the cabinet meeting, with the 7.7 per cent council house rent increase and the approval of the rebuild of a special school in Leigh on the cards.

The councillors begrudgingly approved the rent increase as it was deemed necessary in order to “keep up the standards we want and that people are in fit housing” said Coun Eunice Smethurst.

Coun Paul Prescott told the chamber that Wigan Council’s rent was still one of the cheapest around – and a third of the cost of the private rental market.

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Around 76 per cent of tenants are in receipt of full or partial housing benefit. An increase in rent will have little or no effect on those tenants as it will be subsidised or part-subsidised by the government.

The rent rise will need to be approved by the full council meeting next month.

The council bosses also approved the rebuild of Rowan Tree Primary Special School to an old school site two miles down the road in Leigh.

This came after a consultation period in order to get staff and locals’ views on the matter.

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The old Green Hall Close site in Atherton was deemed to have gone past its lifespan and is "no longer fit for purpose”, the meeting heard.

Coun Jenny Bullen explained this was an opportunity to build a brand new school which is bigger, better and more accessible for students across the borough.

The cabinet approved the spending of £4m on the site that is expected to cost up to £12m to build in total.

It will be constructed on the vacant site of the former Our Lady of the Rosary RC School off Heath Lane in Leigh.

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