Town centre's loss is retail park's gain

Stalled plans to revamp Wigan town centre contributed to a major hotel and retail development being placed at Robin Park, a report has said.

Thursday, 19th May 2016, 3:23 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th May 2016, 4:26 pm
Robin Park

Town hall planning officers granted permission last week for works to start on the project which will see an as yet unnamed hotel, Nando’s and Bella Italia come to the out-of-town retail park.

The development is predicted to provide a welcome boost to the local economy but details revealed in a planning report suggest it to be another blow for the ailing town centre.

It states developers behind the plans were obliged to consider Wigan town centre due to local planning regulations but were stymied by the delay to the proposed £60m transformation of The Galleries shopping centre.

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It adds the Millgate site once earmarked for the Tower Grand project was also considered but rejected because it was too close to the new Premier Inn hotel built on the site of the town’s former police station.

The report reads: “The applicant concludes the Galleries redevelopment has not started ... therefore it should be considered that the site is not currently available.”

And later adds: “The applicant concludes the proposal (to build on Robin Park) will not have a significant adverse impact on the vitality and viability of Wigan town centre ... Bella Italia and Nando’s, who will occupy the restaurant units would not be put off opening up second restaurants in the town centre in the future.”

The development includes a 68 bed hotel said to be a “national, budget hotel operator”, the two restaurants and works to improve the front of the current Empire Cinema.

The “retail anchor” of the cinema was a key aspect in securing interest, according to the report.

It reads: “The sites are not suitable or viable to support the proposed floor space and the operators have confirmed they would not occupy (them) without an anchor use to ensure adequate footfall.”

The three-storey development is estimated to be worth £822,000 to the local economy in terms of wages each year.

A revamp of The Galleries has been put on hold as the complex has been bought out by new owners, US based Colony Capital, who are now considering revising the plans. Meanwhile, developers behind the Tower Grand project are now hoping to build apartments rather than a hotel.