An urgent meeting has been called with the hotel company transforming Haigh Hall after residents raised major concerns about public access.
Shocked Wiganers have been getting in touch with the town hall to say Contessa Hotels, which is running a boutique hotel in the 19th-century landmark, has blocked off public access to part of the site.
The sight of a large gate fringed with picket fencing preventing visitors getting around the back of the property from the stables and car park has aroused particular ire.
The stone and metal gate has always been there but the wooden obstruction has now been added to it in an apparent attempt to beef up security.
Protestors say this action by Contessa is in breach of the lease, which says there should be unfettered public access around the site.
Having heard the concerns, Wigan Council is now keen to get all parties around a table to discuss the issue as soon as possible.
A Wigan Council spokesperson said: “It is important that public access is in accordance with the lease, so the council has called an urgent meeting with members and the hotel in order to find a solution.
“Maintaining access for visitors while preserving the hall has always been a key priority for the council, Contessa and the wider Haigh Woodland Park plan.
“We are aware of residents’ concerns and we will continue to work with Contessa to balance their commercial needs and our commitment to ensuring the hall is accessible.”
Local resident Ian Melling said: “People were walking round the iron gates so now they’ve put a picket fence up so you can’t do that.
“There are also wires coming out of the ground so it looks like there’s going to be electric gates at some point.
“We’re all complaining. There is an alternative route but it’s not fit for purpose as it’s not suitable for prams or people with disabilities.
“It’s still restricting access though. If I want to walk round to the front of the hall and have a picnic, as families have done for years, I can’t do it.
“I’m quite happy with the development as it’s nice to see people spending money on the hall, but I don’t like the restricted access because the lease says it should be unrestricted.”
Clare Kenyon, who recently led the campaign to save the open land next to the Cherry Gardens pub, also said she had got in touch with Wigan Council to express her concerns.
She described being “shocked” to see the array of fencing and gates now in place and said a campaign group was being set up.
The lease agreement with Contessa Hotels for Haigh Hall says no fence, hedge or structure should be built either along the boundary or inside the premises which prevents, hinders or restricts pedestrian access to any pathway or road within the site.
Contessa was approached for comment on the matter but had not responded as we went to press.