Protest against plans for Wigan town centre redevelopment
Stallholders and politicians backing them will take their objections to the regeneration scheme public at an event on Friday.
Traders will gather in the shopping centre outside the former Morrisons store at 11am and then plan to walk through Wigan town centre to the town hall around noon.
There is disappointment among traders that the plan to revitalise the area does not include a permanent outdoor market and fear that there will be downsizing, despite the local authority saying there will be space in the new-look development for everyone who wants a stall.
Opposition politicians supporting the market traders have also expressed alarm at the cost of the project and questioned some of the new facilities which have been chosen for the scheme, although Wigan Council and its partner Cityheart have previously responded strongly to criticism of the project’s viability.
Hindley Green independent representative Coun Paul Maiden said: “Protests have worked in the past. It worked at Haigh Hall and we did one a few years ago outside the town hall over the market stall rents. The council seems to sit up and take notice when there’s a protest going on.
“The market traders are worried they are going to throw some of them under the bus because there’s not room for them all to go in there.
“The cost of materials is going up so the cost of this project is going up. How much is it going to be by next year when development actually starts?
“What is upsetting a lot of people is that this feels like a done deal but they haven’t even got planning permission yet.
“It just seems ridiculous. We’re trying to get the economy moving and Labour is supposed to be for the working clases but we could end up getting rid of them and gentrifying a Labour town.
“We’ve knocked down a perfectly good market and we also knocked down the finest cinema in Wigan, the ABC which was a fantastic building, and now we want to build another one.
“It’s not 100 per cent certain what they are building. It’s all a case of ‘suck it and see’.”
Wigan Council has said market stalls remain a key component of the new plan and the hall which traders will move into will be one of the first aspects completed.
The town hall has acknowledged the uncertainty and concern the project brings for retailers but said doing nothing with Wigan town centre is not an option to ensure it has a sustainable future.
The ambitious scheme to completely alter the way part of Wigan town centre looks has certainly generated debate.
The £130m project involves reducing the amount of retail space in The Galleries, with shopping units making way for a mixture of leisure facilities which could include a cinema, a bowling alley and a mini-golf attraction.
There are plans for more places to eat and drink as well as the market being put in a contemporary food hall which will also have offices and co-working space in it. Hundreds of new homes and a hotel are also on the cards.
While some have welcomed the investment in Wigan town centre there have also been negative reactions, with concerns ranging from the cost of the project to claims about disproportionate spending on the middle of Wigan to queries about the vision it represents for the area's future.
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