A BITTER dispute between ward councillors and the local authority about the future of a Wigan park will come to a head this week.
A public inquiry to determine whether Ashfield Park in Standish should be granted village green (VG) status starts tomorrow at the town hall.
Council bosses have long maintained the inquiry has been a waste of resources as they have no plans to build houses on the site.
But Coun Gareth Fairhurst – who is the leader of the Standish Independents Party – has accused the town hall of misleading the public on the future of the park and claims VG designation will protect it from development.
The months leading up to the inquiry have seen various attempts by both sides to undermine their opponent’s point of view.
Deputy leader Coun David Molyneux said: “As residents will know we have on a number of occasions assured them that Ashfield Park is safe and will be for future generations – all without the need for this village green status.
“This inquiry will cost in excess of £32,000 – money which could have gone towards paying for vital services such as funding vulnerable children in need of fostering – instead of defending an unnecessary hearing.”
The council issued a leaflet slamming the Save Ashfield campaign earlier this year, prompting Coun Fairhurst to claim officers were “running scared.”
He said: “Wigan Council is obviously getting desperate. They have issued a press release saying that the VG application is based on false information. This is not true.
“They (the council) are urging people not to subscribe to the legal battle fund. Why?
“Because it is unlawful? No, because the barrister that we have is one of the most highly respected in the land and they know that they will have a fight on their hands.”
Coun Fairhurst has also stated that all funds donated to the campaign can be accounted for after some residents accused the campaign of mismanagement.
The inquiry will be chaired by an independent government inspector who will advise the council on the verdict.
The process is scheduled to continue until Friday September 4.
Coun Molyneux added: “The council is already proposing to protect the park against development through a key plan called the Allocations Plan so this inquiry is not needed at all.”
For regular updates from the inquiry visit www.wigantoday.net or follow @WigToday or @JIllingworthWIG on twitter.