Second popular venue threatened by housing development proposals

Controversial plans to bulldoze another popular community venue and replace it with houses have been submitted to the council.

Monday, 19th December 2016, 10:00 am
Updated Thursday, 29th December 2016, 3:20 pm
The Rose Centre, formerly Lowton Civic Hall

An application has been put in to flatten The Rose Centre, formerly Lowton Civic Hall, and build 36 homes on the site.

Pemberton-based MCI Developments have submitted the proposal for the civic hall, which was previously owned by Wigan Council but then sold to Rose Leisure, also known as 8th Wonder.

The latest move has sparked fury, with those opposed to the demolition citing the similarities to the case of Atherton’s much-loved Formby Hall, which was also previously in the local authority’s hands but was sold to 8th Wonder and now faces demolition for a care facility.

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The Lowton venue has been home to events including a popular Last Night of the Proms, performances by local arts groups and community gatherings. Coun James Grundy, Conservative ward representative for Lowton East, said: “This is Formby Hall all over again. We were promised when it was sold that it would be spared and it hasn’t been.

“Now we face losing another one of our community facilities and we are considering our options. It looks like Wigan Council has let us down once again.

“It’s all happened lightning fast and the venue was still going a very short time ago, with a very successful Last Night of the Proms event there.

“The sale came out of the blue and almost immediately we have this proposal to build houses.

“The people of Atherton are absolutely outraged by what has happened to Formby Hall but given the way Lowton has been treated over the past few years I think most people here will greet this news with a sense of grim expectation.”

However, it has emerged the building has been designated an “asset of community value” meaning local groups have the right to bid for ownership of the building, which could scupper any prospective developers’ plans.

Coun Grundy said he only became aware the building would be sold a couple of weeks ago.

The application, which has been delegated to officers for a decision, proposes building the houses “on land formerly occupied by Lowton Civic Hall”.

MCI Developments has also put in a separate application to build 24 new car parking spaces to serve the sports pitch on Hesketh Meadow playing fields.

The abrupt closure mirrors the way Formby Hall suddenly shut its doors last year when the Formby Hall Investments (FHI) group bought it from 8th Wonder.

Coun Grundy also suggested the company had deliberately let the Rose Centre get into a state of disrepair before it was sold, again echoing arguments made against the firm by protestors in Atherton.

A Wigan Council spokesman said: “A planning application has been made and the situation will be reviewed. The building has an asset of community value attached to it which has been triggered by Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles.”