Disappointment for Wigan’s failed bids despite £20m success for Levelling Up cash
While Wigan celebrated securing £20m in Levelling Up cash for Haigh Hall this week, there was still a whiff of disappointment in the borough after plans for Leigh and Ashton were snubbed.
The blueprint for Ashton was for a multifunctional square in the centre that could be home to a range of community, social and entrepreneurial activities to boost productivity and restore a sense of community.
This would have gone alongside the introduction of greenery and lights along Garswood Street and Gerard Street. One of the key aspects for Ashton was traffic control: which the £7.2m bid would go towards helping.
Improvements included infrastructure upgrades to Old Road and Wigan Road which aimed to reduce traffic movements in the residential area through a series of active neighbourhood measures, crossing facility upgrades and connection improvements.
A total of 111 areas were awarded funding from the second of the government’s flagship Levelling Up Fund, providing greater investment in communities that will create new jobs, drive economic growth. The Government believe this would help restore people’s pride in the places where they live, and spread opportunity more equally.
Coun Danny Fletcher and MP Yvonne Fovargue, who represent Ashton in the council and Parliament respectively, expressed their disappointment at the outcome.
Counc Fletcher said: “Extremely disappointing that Ashton’s levelling up bid was rejected by the government this morning. We had a solid proposal that would have massively improved Ashton centre, including much needed improvements to buildings and roads.
“How they’ve rejected it baffles me.”
Makerfield representative Ms Fovargue said: “A lot of hard work went into preparing the bid for Ashton, so it is disappointing to learn today that the bid failed to secure the funding. I note that a further round of funding will be available and I hope that a revised bid can be submitted at that time.
“Ultimately, local communities across the North have been stripped of funding over the past 13 years and this latest decision is yet further evidence of a failing Government whose warm words on levelling up are just that – hot air!”
In Leigh, disappointment was rife, as the funding sought to spruce up the town’s Civic Square and walkways with nature trails and social hubs. Both leader and deputy leader of the council Couns Dave Molyneux and Keith Cunliffe voiced disappointment it would not come to fruition this time around.
Leigh’s £11.4m bid also included plans for shop front improvements to replace “tired areas” of the town centre and an overhaul of Leigh’s market hall. However, Coun Molyneux has stated that they would prepare bids for Ashton and Leigh town centre in the next round of Levelling Up funding.
Expressing his own dismay at the situation, Coun Dane Anderton, lead member for district centres and night time economy, said: “What we now have is no Government investment to kick-start key transformations; an uncertain future on levelling up as a policy and a Tory MP who has brought no money whatsoever into Leigh since 2019.
“We now have nothing from the Government to help kick-start the market regeneration or create an event space to drive footfall. This bid was kick starter money for regeneration targeted on the town centre, complimenting investments around other parts of Leigh, as ‘levelling up’ issues stem much deeper in post-industrial towns.