Toy firm bidding for leisure halls

A WIGAN film merchandising company has made a surprise bid to run the council’s leisure halls.

New Springs-based 8th Wonder, which has won contracts for spin-off toys for Hollywood movies, want to take over all five of the threatened venues - Formby Hall, Lowton Civic Hall, Aspull Civic Hall, The Monaco Ballroom and Ince Public Hall if the council decide to dispose of them later this spring after a review.

Metro chiefs are withdrawing the £150,000 per year subsidy from the halls from April because of the £55m cuts in Government subsidy they are facing over the next three years. They may dispose of them altogether following a review which is currently on-going.

Community groups have been formed to bid for Formby Hall and The Monaco, while a sports club is known to be interested in taking on Aspull Civic Hall.

Nobody at 8th Wonder, which is run by husband and wife team Gary and Kelly Tyrer, was available for comment.

Council Executive Director of Business Support Services David Smith said: “We can confirm that there have been a number of expressions of interest in the venues but it in the interest of fairness it would be inappropriate for us to identify any individual bidders at this stage.”

But an email seen by the Evening Post from the council’s economic regeneration department confirms the company, which is based in Cale Lane, is in talks with the council about a commercially sensitive business proposal.

Hindley Green councillor Bob Brierley is concerned that the community groups will lose out. He has asked the council whether the leisure halls themselves are for sale - rather than with leases to operate them.

He said: ‘‘We heard the Government was keen to allow local people to run their own community facilities. Now I fear that their rights are being threatened by the back door.”

When ruling councillors agreed to end the subsidy at their meeting before Christmas, they heard that the worsening economic situation was likely to mean all five halls needing an even greater subsidy to break even this year.

Councillors were recommended to transfer Aspull Civic Hall to a community-based group or sports club.

The venue, with its large function room and adjoining bar and lounge on Aspull Common also has changing facilities for players who use the adjoining football pitches.

But they were recommended to close Formby Hall in Atherton - a former US Army drill hall from World War Two - for redevelopment for housing.

Ince Public Hall was recommended for retaining becauseit is based inside a council building so its operating costs could be off set.

Lowton Civic Hall was recommended for closure and disposal for redevelopment and officers were open-minded about the future of The Monaco at Hindley, because of public support for events there despite a lack of parking and the fact that it was a relatively old building with restricted access.