Architectural expert and first cousin to the Queen, HRH The Duke of Gloucester is to visit Wigan Borough this week.
The Duke, whose interests include conservation and young peoples' charities, will also explore the Greenheart regional park during his itinerary on July 5.
He will meet staff and the designers of the Life Centre after a 'working lunch' which will enable The Duke to meet members of the Wigan Forward Board. These senior business people will be joined by public service and community leaders in the town hall's atrium as part of a focus on investment.
Architects will take His Royal Highness on a tour of the public service developments in the town centre and then he will have a guided tour of the brand new Wigan Life Centre.
The Wigan Life Centre, with its distinctive glass frontage overlooking a new piazza in the heart of the town, was formed from part of the old Municipal Buildings. Those were terracotta 1930s structures built to match the late Victorian former mining college and now town hall opposite. The Life Centre, which opened its doors in January, is home to libraries, advice centres and a range of public services in an innovative partnership of local organisations. It was built as a Private Finance Initiative and has proved extremely popular with residents in its opening months. Some 130,000 people have accessed the site since it opened in January.
Partner organisations including Wigan and Leigh Housing, Victim Support and Citizens’ Advice, will explain to the Duke how their services operate in one location. He will then formally open the new public facility.
The Mayor of Wigan Borough, Cllr Myra Whiteside, will greet The Duke and receive him into the Mayor’s parlour at the town hall. Cllr Whiteside says: “I am proud to welcome the Duke of Gloucester to our borough on behalf of the council, partners and all residents. We have a lot to show the Duke and I am looking forward to showing him the Life Centre, which combines traditional architecture with a striking, modern look. I know it will be of particular interest to the Duke who has long-established links with architectural conservation.”
His Royal Highness will then begin his tour of Greenheart, accompanied by the Mayor and the leader of the council, Lord Smith. Cllr Smith has been closely involved with many of the borough’s regeneration projects and with his particular knowledge of Leigh schemes such as Pennington Flash, will discuss Greenheart with the Duke.
Lord Smith says: “I am delighted to welcome His Royal Highness to Wigan to show him how the new Life Centre is working. I am also very pleased to be able to take him around Greenheart and discuss how we have transformed former derelict industrial land into attractive open spaces for people to enjoy.”
With over two thirds of Wigan Borough being open space, there are plenty of projects to see. The Greenheart board, officers from Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust and from the Homes and Communities Agency will show the Duke three locations.
Common where a new outdoor classroom facility will be being used by local school children. Later in the afternoon, the royal party moves to the new Bickershaw Marina off Plank Lane, which is to be formally named Diamond Jubilee Marina ahead of the first phase of construction work alongside it later this year. He will be guided by local experts from the council, Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust and the environmental charity Groundwork. He'll meet some of the people involved in restoration work and unveil new information boards illustrating the rich history of the area. The final port of call will be Pennington Flash Country Park which will complete a busy schedule of seeing how the borough’s regeneration has changed the landscape for the better.
Deborah McLaughlin, Executive Director North West at the HCA, says: “Through great collaborative and partnership working, we’ve now reached a fantastic point in the redevelopment of Bickershaw South – today marks a major milestone in progressing our work to make this a place where people choose to live, work and invest. With the new marina, infrastructure and outline planning in place, we are now seeking a partner to develop a mix of housing types and tenures for the local community.
“Bickershaw has been an important priority for HCA for a number of years and I am pleased that we have been able to provide investment of over £19m to reach the point we have today. I am especially proud of the environmental work we have been supported on the site, during the remediation work all excavated materials were reused on site and we used modern technology to help improve and protect existing wetland habitats for the benefit of local wildlife."
The Mayor adds: “We’re making this is a practical, working visit. The itinerary will showcase our local talents and how we’ve managed the heritage of our landscape and environment. Given the Duke’s interests and expertise, it will be a wonderful opportunity to present our very best to him.”