Questions and Answers - 2018

Question reference number 86380

I want to nominate Atherton for regeneration. This town is the 3rd largest in Wigan. We need some serious money being spent in this town centre. The traffic system is useless. No one takes any notice of the pedestrianisation and just ride through all day. Security cameras either aren’t or don’t work. This town needs a decent shopping centre, with steady access to all of Market Street, All the time. We have major housing developments all around, we need these people to shop in the town centre. Wigan have bled this town dry for too long. Leigh and Wigan have had millions spent on them, why not Atherton. We are proud Community, that needs, no demands a decent slice of the pie.

Response from Councillor David Molyneux - Portfolio Holder for Economic Development and Regeneration

All the points you have raised will be shared with the project group (includes members of the local community) who are helping to shape a new investment plan for Atherton and Tyldesley. This strategic document will help attract developer and investor interest in the area and will help identify an action plan to help tackle issues within the town centre, like the ones you have raised in your query.

Various town centres across the borough have been reviewed in advance of the Council making recommendations for the GM Mayor’s Town Centre Challenge. One of the criteria is to build on existing investment and strategic direction and at this stage Atherton town centre is not quite at that stage; however we will use the investment plan for the town to help accelerate solutions to the problems you have described in parallel to the GM programme of works.

Question reference numbers 86381 / 86382 / 86383

  • Why does Leigh get all the funding and Atherton is so neglected?
  • Could I please ask why Atherton has been completely disregarded by Wigan Council? Leigh are yet again going to be awarded a cash fund when it is already had large amounts of money to regenerate the town - whilst Atherton is left to rot. Is it that Wigan Council are trying their best to get rid of Atherton and make it a forgotten town? The residents of Atherton all agree that with a little money, Atherton could become the thriving town it once was.
  • Atherton is overlooked time and time again by Wigan Council. We seem to be just a cash cow that get all the housing but no gain. We have Formby Hall sold for a fraction of its value and a town centre with the most stupid pedestrianised area going. The Mayor's Fund for Town Centres would have been an opportunity to fix some of those wrongs and the rationale is nonsense for not submitting Atherton. Can I ask the cabinet yet again to start considering Atherton in more favourable terms and to look to get a team in place to work on a neighbourhood forum or town council.

Response from Councillor David Molyneux - Portfolio Holder for Economic Development and Regeneration

The Council is working with a number of partners, businesses and residents from the local community in order to shape a new investment plan for Atherton and Tyldesley. This strategic document will help attract developer and investor interest in the area and will help identify an action plan to help tackle issues within the town centre, like the ones you have raised in your query.

Various town centres across the borough have been reviewed and assessed against the criteria set out for the GM Mayor’s Town Centre Challenge. The Town Centre Challenge has a focus on housing development and one of the criteria is to build on existing investment and strategic direction.  At this stage, Atherton town centre is not quite ready to be considered for this programme; however we will use the investment plan for the town to help accelerate solutions to the problems you have described in parallel to the GM programme of works.

If you would like to get more involved, please email the Major Projects team ( majorprojects@wigan.gov.uk) to register an interest on the working group for the Atherton and Tyldesley masterplan.

Question reference numbers 86384 / 86385 / 86386

  • Please could the children's play area in Central Park, Atherton be made safe? The ground covering in the playground for small children is absolutely mud sodden, very slippery and frankly unfit for purpose. It is also totally unsafe as I have seen a number of children, including my grandson, slip on the surface and fall. The equipment is always filthy because of the muddy conditions. The playground for older children which has sand as ground cover is also unsafe, as bits of broken glass are buried in the sand as well as dog faeces. I know that this issue has been raised by several Atherton residents yet absolutely nothing seems to get done. 
  • Please can you advise why Atherton Park is not being done up. Is it because it’s not in Wigan or Leigh and we don’t matter? My children love that park and you are letting it go to rack and ruin. I take it none of you have children that use the park and that’s why it’s being ignored. The surface in the small area is slippery as is the slide etc. Please don’t just remove it and not replace it with anything, my children would be devastated. The sand area in the large part is always full of flies. Please invest some money into this and the future of our children. They need open spaces to play in. 
  • Please can you let me know why our requests for a safer playground - Atherton Central Park, falls on deaf ears time and time again? It’s filthy, slippy and dangerous. When seeing a man in a high-vis coat a few days back I finally thought we had been listened too, when in fact we haven’t. The roundabout has been removed and a laminated piece of paper has been put up saying slippery surface, thanks for stating the obvious. We pay our taxes just like our neighbouring towns but get nothing in return. Wigan Council is awful towards the smaller ‘forgotten’ towns. I doubt I’ll get a reply as I haven’t to my other emails, but I wanted to share how disgusted I am.

Response from Councillor Kevin Anderson - Portfolio Holder for Environmental Services

The Council looks after over 100 play areas across the Borough and we pride ourselves on ensuring that these areas are safe, accessible and provide exciting play value to children and young people.

All sites are inspected on a weekly basis by trained inspectors in line with national safety guidelines.

We are aware of issues relating to the play area at Central Park, in particular, problems caused with the surfaces within the younger children’s play area due to nearby trees.

Our long term solution has been to secure funding to improve and relocate the younger children’s play area within the park and these works are planned for Spring 2018.

In the short term, we have carried out a thorough clean of both play areas and will continue to ensure that glass and dog fouling is removed from the sand within the older children’s play area as soon as we become aware of it.

We have also cleaned and redressed the safety surface in the younger children’s play area with new sand.

I hope that you will see an immediate improvement in the maintenance of the play areas at Central Park with further improvements planned for the spring.

Question reference number 86387

My mother has a disability and every week enjoys a day in Wigan using the Ring and Ride and
then hires a mobility scooter through Shopmobility. We were astounded to hear that she received a phone call to say that the Shopmobility is closing with immediate effect. How sad that a business once funded and supported by the Council, can no longer be a sustainable business as a charity. My question is, how are you now going to provide for all the people who can only access the town in this way. How do you comply with the equality act? What is the Council's provision for people with a disability accessing Wigan? And where does the 'Deal' come into this?

Response from Councillor David Molyneux - Portfolio Holder for Economic Development and Regeneration

Thank you for your enquiry to the Cabinet regarding the recent decision taken by Shopmobility to close their Wigan and Leigh town centre units. This charity has provided a valuable service in our town centres for thirty years, so their closure comes as a big loss. With regard to the Disability Discrimination Act, our town centres are compliant. Through our Deal approach; we are always willing to listen, be open, honest and friendly in order to resolve concerns; we are passionate about supporting our local economy to grow, especially supporting local town centres and businesses; and, we are always amazed at the ways we can help local communities to support each other. Although the provision of mobility scooters is not a service the Council are required to provide, we do recognise its importance in helping to make our centres accessible for all. Therefore, we are working with mobility scooter providers in both Wigan and Leigh to see whether this service can be provided in a different way. We will ensure our residents are notified once arrangements are confirmed. 

Question reference number 86388

Following my question last year, do you have any further information regarding the commencement of work on the A49 link road? I note that work on the cycle way at the Saddle is starting soon which will benefit approx. 2% of travellers in Wigan. Surely this link road will be considerably more effective in reducing congestion in south Wigan and will benefit more than 2% of the road users.

Response from Councillor David Molyneux - Portfolio Holder for Economic Development and Regeneration

Final GMCA funding approval for the A49 Link Road is due to be granted in March 2018.  Following approval Wigan Council will seek to commence construction and, once the dates are confirmed, we will make announcements to stakeholders and the wider public.

We have now established a project webpage for the A49 link road scheme, and will be updating this regularly throughout the works.

Separately, and through investment in new cycling links like the schemes currently underway at the Saddle, we hope to encourage more people to take up cycling – whether as part of a healthier lifestyle, to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality, or simply as an alternative way of getting into the town centre without having to rely on the car or public transport.  In this way we’re aiming, in line with Greater Manchester targets, to achieve 10% of journeys being made by bike by 2025, which we hope will provide benefit not just for road users but for all our communities.

Question reference number 86389

Is there any further enforcement that can be done about the dogs in Atherton Central Park and Atherton Tennis Courts - I know Greenspaces have tried but it is difficult to enforce - the dog owners of Atherton can be very different to the dog owners of other towns, there is a complete disrespect of greenspaces that are council owned and the areas are now used as a complete dog park. This may be due to there being limited areas to exercise dogs without going to scrub land but it really is an out of control event of many years. If you have a young child and ask them to put the dog on a lead you get abuse, I have also seen some volunteers who are there, be abused when politely asking them to stay off the flower beds. I now no longer go onto the park as it is no longer a place for the public to enjoy safely due to the abuse of owners if anything.

Response from Councillor Kevin Anderson – Portfolio Holder for Environmental Services

Many thanks for taking the time to report this unacceptable behaviour in Atherton Central Park and tennis courts. Parks are designed for everyone to enjoy and not for a small group of individuals to take over for their own needs. I have asked the Environmental Enforcement Service Manager to look in to this and for his team to take any appropriate action.

You may be aware of The Deal, which is an informal agreement between the Council and its residents to work together to create a better borough. As part of this, we ask residents to provide as much information as possible to help authorised officers attend at the right time to be most effective. If you could provide times of the day that this is happening, if possible names and addresses of these irresponsible dog owners or descriptions of the owner and dogs, this information will allow the enforcement team to target their efforts with the best chance of identifying and dealing with these individuals.

In relation to dog fouling, the legislation requires the authorised officer to actually see the fouling take place before they can take enforcement action, so your local information and knowledge would be really helpful in targeting our limited resources at the right time to catch these irresponsible dog owners

Question reference number 86390

Can I ask why the council seem to cherry pick from its own core strategy. We have seen the loss of a well-used civic venue in Atherton but not heard or seen any mention of a replacement of the Formby Hall as per the core strategy CP 13. Will the Formby Hall ever be replaced and can any strategy or plans for development be taken seriously if the council disregards its own core plans?

Response from Councillor David Molyneux – Portfolio Holder for Economic Regeneration

The Core Strategy that you refer to is a planning document that is used to make decisions on planning applications. The situation at Formby Hall was that the demolition of the building did not need planning permission and the policy you refer to was not pertinent to the prior notification application for the means of demolition. There is a current planning application with the council for redevelopment of the site for residential development and that application will need to be considered against relevant policies in the Core Strategy and any other material considerations.

Question reference number 86391

We are seeing some investment in Atherton in the town hall but at the cost of closing a purposefully built Carnegie Library. My question is, will the existing Library and the Tech College adjacent to it be retained and maintained by the council? Will they not be sold to private developers for demolition and profit?

Response from Councillor Carl Sweeney – Portfolio Holder for Resources and Reform (*updated 29th March 2018)

The Atherton Centre (which contains the library currently) was opened in 1905 following an application by the Council for funding from Andrew Carnegie. In January 2012 a report about the Council’s office accommodation review was approved by Cabinet which identified the Atherton Centre as a building for future disposal. The disposal of Atherton Town Hall was also included.

In January 2016 Cabinet considered a further report and agreed to retain Atherton Town Hall as Atherton Community Hub and lease/sell the Atherton centre/library building to other public services/health services. It is therefore suggested that if it is found that other public services/health services cannot be progressed, then disposal on the open market would follow but a further report would be brought to Cabinet first.

In March 2017, Cabinet approved the library move to the town hall when it considered the report “Transforming Service Delivery – Library Consultation”. The report is clear at para 9.5 about Atherton Centre and Atherton Town Hall that “The Council is not in a position to retain both buildings, due to financial pressures, but is committed to retaining and enhancing a visible presence within Atherton community: the Town Hall enables this provision, retains a landmark building and presents the most financially viable option.”

As recently as February 2018, a decision was made to accept the contract for the Atherton Town Hall works and this referred to the link to the disposal of the Atherton Centre.

The current position is, therefore, that the decision has been made to dispose of the Atherton Centre but due to the time-frame since the original decision and changes to various other relevant details this matter will be considered by the Council’s Corporate Property Board/Cabinet to confirm the approach to the disposal.

Question reference number 86392

The canal towpath between Boothstown and Astley Village needs resurfacing badly to enable safe
walking. My understanding is that money has been approved for this on 2 prior occasions but then ultimately re-diverted. Can this now be given priority? Salford have done an excellent job on the towpath up to the Wigan Council border and it would make a huge difference to locals in the area if it was finished off. Beyond Astley Village the towpath is ok.

Response from Councillor David Molyneux - Portfolio Holder for Economic Development and Regeneration

Thank you for your recent enquiry relating to the poor state of the canal towpath between Boothstown and Astley. You may be aware that a significant amount of the Bridgewater Canal towpath has already been upgraded by Wigan Council and Salford Council respectively. However, the gap in the network within your enquiry relates to a stretch of land which is in private ownership. This unfortunately means that Wigan Council is not in a position to directly undertake improvement works. The importance of completing this stretch of towpath to provide enhanced walking / cycling links for the local community has been recognised for some time, and we continue to work with the land owners to explore funding options to improve this section to a similar standard to the rest of the towpath.

I’m pleased to say that we have recently been able to identify the funding required to undertake the works, through a combination of contributions from the landowner, external grant funding and from Wigan Council to enable progress to be made with this important link. Current activities include supporting the landowner to develop the scheme in full detail to enable procurement to take place and then an appointed contractor be confirmed to carry out the works. We won’t be able to confirm delivery timescales until a contractor is in place, however we are hopeful that the upgrade works will be able to start before the end of the year.

I hope that this response provides a helpful summary of the current position and an assurance that Wigan Council is working hard in conjunction with the landowner to address the existing surfacing issues with this section of the canal towpath.

Question reference number 86393

I would like to know if there are any freely available plans for the new library after it gets moved
to the Atherton Town Hall. I have seen the proposed floor plans but there seems to a severe lack of digital renderings and full itemised plans.

I think it's important for the local residents to see clear internal pictures and a full list of what technology is to be put in the library. There has been plenty of
talk about high-tech things but no in-depth information. I realised that this is a problem for residents after a ARA meeting.

Response from Councillor Carl Sweeney – Portfolio Holder for Resources and Reform

There are plans giving details of the Atherton Town Hall refurbishment project in the existing library. These don’t give full details of the IT to be installed, as most people don’t want that level of detail.

The plans are for the whole building to be covered by Wi-Fi.

The main adult library area will have 4 x public access computers and a high seating bar with power points for public to bring their own tablets and work off the public Wi-Fi. 

The children’s library will have a computer, again with connections for the public to bring their tablets and connect to the Wi-Fi.

The café and meeting rooms will all have Wi-Fi connectivity to ensure spaces are as flexible as possible for the local community and community groups to work from.

Question reference number 86394

I asked you the same question almost twelve months ago when are we going to get a new combi boiler and your reply was that the boiler in our house was due for renewal after 20/8/17 as it had been in for between 15 and 20 years and was classed as obsolete and was expected to be renewed after this date. I have rang the Housing department previously and they said they have no money, so with it now being the start of a new tax year they will now have enough money to do it so can this be undertaken asap and we might be able to save some money on gas bills.

Response from Councillor Terry Halliwell - Portfolio Holder for Housing and Welfare

Thank you for your enquiry regarding the renewal of the central heating boiler at your home.

Currently, tenders are being prepared for a new boiler replacement contract. We expect to have engaged a new contractor by the summer of this year.

We will undertake boiler renewals based on the age of the boiler, those that are older than 15 years will be completed first.

The boiler in your home is now 16 years old and will be included in those that are replaced at the start of the programme.

Once appointed, the successful contractor will contact you to arrange a date for a survey to be undertaken and to arrange an installation date.

Question reference number 86395

Can the Council give any update on providing mobility scooters to the disabled in Wigan and
Leigh please. I read that there were plans to seek a way to try to provide this vital service so needed by disabled people in the area now that Shopmobility has closed as yet there has been no further information since the question was put some while ago.

Response from Councillor David Molyneux - Portfolio Holder for Economic Development and Regeneration

Thank you for your enquiry to the Cabinet regarding mobility scooter provision in our town centre units. You may not be aware, but these valuable services were previously provided by the Shopmobility Charity for the last thirty years, so we agree that their closure comes as a big loss. The provision of mobility scooters is not a service the Council are required to provide, however we do recognise its importance in helping to make our centres accessible for all. Therefore, we are working with private sector and social enterprise mobility scooter providers in both Wigan and Leigh to see whether these services can be provided in a different way. Unfortunately, we are still waiting for these organisations to decide whether these services can be provided; naturally, we will endeavour to ensure that our residents are notified once arrangements can be confirmed. 

Question reference number 86396

How very interesting to see the article about the white lines on the road leading up to Haigh Hall. I
am a resident of Belmont Ave, Billinge. Well over six months ago a notice was posted on the lamp posts advising on the markings of double yellow lines on the junctions of Belmont Avenue and Green Lane on to Moss Road. The parking on these junctions is a disgrace and residents have trouble leaving Belmont Avenue. The traffic coming up Moss Road take no notice of the speed limit. When is this going to be resolved? I presume it’s more important to tart up Haigh Hall than deal with a more important problem.

Response from Councillor David Molyneux - Portfolio Holder for Economic Development and Regeneration

Before double yellow lines can be installed on Moss Road, Belmont Road and Green Lane it would be necessary for a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) to be made. This process involves a legal procedure, involving statutory consultations with a number of external agencies, as well as advertising the proposal in the local press and on site. A 4-week objection period is provided, during which time representations may be made against the proposal by any party who considers themselves to be adversely affected by it. Provided there are no objections to the proposal it usually takes six months for a TRO to be made.

A proposal for double yellow lines was advertised however the proposal received several objections from local residents who felt it would be over-restrictive if they or their visitors could not park cars on-street in the vicinity of their properties. Each of these objections had to be considered on its own merit and a Service Directors Report had to be approved to recommend the way forward before the TRO was made. As a result of this process a TRO has now been made and the double yellow lines will be installed on site within the next 25 working days.

With regards to the issue of speeding vehicles, whilst we understand your concerns, unfortunately Wigan Council does not have the legal powers to carry out enforcement action against motorists who exceed the designated speed limits or drive in a dangerous manner. The responsibility for carrying enforcement action for these types of offences lies with Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and any such incidences observed by residents should be reported directly by telephone number 101.

Wigan Council’s aim in dealing with inappropriate driving is to change driver’s attitudes and behaviours when travelling on residential streets rather than prosecute speeding offences. To assist this approach, 20 mph speed limits have been introduced on the majority of residential streets across the borough. As such we would not be looking to introduce further road safety features such as speed humps.

Furthermore, the Council is looking to work with our residents through The Deal, in order to develop a collaborative approach to dealing with these types of issues. In particular, the Traffic service has developed a Community Speed Watch scheme. This empowers residents to actively get involved in helping improve their community and the place that they live. Find further information about the  20mph speed limit.

Should you wish to get involved in developing a Community Speed Watch scheme, you can complete the online application and a member of the Traffic team will support you in taking this forward.

Question reference number 86397

Given that the Council has decided to sell Atherton's library building and to turn the Town Hall into a community hub can you answer the following questions: What type of library services will be provided in the Town Hall? Will it be a books on shelves or a choose and collect? What provisions will be made to accommodate the existing community groups using the current library facilities given the huge reduction in floor space? What will be the opening times? What will happen to the moneys from the sale of the existing library/tech buildings?

Response from Councillor Carl Sweeney – Portfolio Holder for Resources and Reform

The Town Hall will offer the same service as all 15 libraries in the borough: books, computers and event/meeting spaces. Atherton Library will also continue to be one of the borough’s six libraries that houses a Life Centre for the benefit of local residents. The library service will be offered in the same way as the existing service, with books on shelves. It will not be a ‘choose and collect’ or a ‘click and collect’ service: library customers will be able to select books as they do in the existing Atherton Library. 

One of the advantages of Atherton Town Hall is that it has more meeting space available for community groups, including those that already use the current library facilities. These groups will be given the option to move with the library service into the new space, where there will be plenty of rooms for the groups to choose from. Outside of library hours, the children’s and adult library spaces will be available, along with the café space, all of which are on the ground floor. There are a further three rooms available on the first floor of the building.

Based on current library opening hours, these will be retained when the library moves to the Town Hall. The current opening hours are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, 9am – 2pm, and Thursday and Friday, 12pm – 5pm.

In relation to the ‘sale’ of Atherton’s library/tech building, no decision has been made by the Council as to the building’s future yet.

Question reference number 86398

There is a Conservation Area Appraisal for Ashton-in-Makerfield on your website which was
approved in July 2007 having been prepared in May 2005 by Heritage & Regeneration Solutions Ltd of Warwick. Has this been re-visited at all since 2005/2007? Are there any plans to update or upgrade any of these areas? Ashton-in-Makerfield is looking tired and in need of regeneration but also in line with keeping the older buildings as part of the areas heritage. The Cross Keys has now been empty for a number of years whilst still being available To Let. The Fleece is being regenerated to provide flats/apartments with, I understand, Heritage approval to ensure the integrity of the building and external appearance is not interfered with. The photographs within the appraisal are now mainly out of date for example the Angel Pub is no more. Only St Thomas's and St Oswald's Churches appear to have full Grade II listing with the protection this provides. Are there any plans to protect any of the other buildings and to ensure these are sympathetically restored where applicable? What is the latest on a ring road/by pass for Ashton In Makerfield as the traffic congestion
especially on race days is over capacity?

Response from Councillor David Molyneux - Portfolio Holder for Economic Development and Regeneration

It is good practice to reappraise Conservation Areas and we have just started this process of reappraising the Council’s 23 Conservation Areas, starting with Dicconson Conservation Area in Wigan; Ashton will be revisited in due course. With regard to vacant buildings, the Cross Keys is in private ownership and as such, its vacancy is outside of Council control, however, as you mention, the former Fleece Public House has received planning approval for conversion. Through the planning application process, the Council’s Planning Service have implemented Council Policy and ensured that the integrity and character of the Conservation Area is preserved.

The Listing of buildings of historic and architectural merit is carried out by the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport in conjunction with Historic England, the Government’s Heritage Advisor, and as such the Council does not have any responsibility for these designations. Anybody can make suggestions for listing to Historic England. Where buildings are listed, this provides extra protection and ensures that any redevelopment is sympathetic to the special character of the building.

Although we believe that Ashton has much to be proud of, we also recognise that there is significant potential for regeneration within the town. Last year the Council carried out a detailed analysis of Ashton and its surrounding areas, and identified a number of objectives and aspirations for the town, including several ambitious schemes, regeneration priorities and development areas. These are all based around 4 core principles:

  1. Enhancing Our Place
  2. Strengthening Our Enterprise
  3. Empowering Our People
  4. Providing Connected Infrastructure.

However, the Council can’t deliver this vision alone. We have therefore developed a strategic investment plan for Ashton to enable us to attract investment from private sector developers and investors, as well as to support funding bids - this can be found on our business support page.

The Council has recently funded works to transform Ashton Market into a modern and attractive pop-up market, including resurfacing and marking out new car parking areas for use on non-market days to increase parking availability in the town.

With regards to the issue of traffic congestion, you will see this is referenced within the town centre masterplan. The Council is continuing to explore opportunities to reduce the impact on the town centre environment by heavy goods vehicles; however, this is sensitive and directly linked to the numerous works taking place on the motorway network. The delivery of any transport infrastructure improvements will be dependent on whether the possibility of a future by-pass or any other projects can be justified through the development of a full business case. This is not in any programmes of work at this time as we are currently reviewing and awaiting news from Highways England about their projects and programmes of work on the M6 motorway, as this significantly influences any potential transport schemes for Ashton town centre. 

Question reference number 86399

Could you tell me when Wigan Council will develop a Policy regarding Metal Detecting on Council
Land please? I asked this question via email in 2014 and I was told there was no policy but it would be considered "soon". I have not chased you up but I note a FOI request was submitted this year,  What Do They Know (external link), and again the response was, there is no policy but it will be considered "soon" I ask again because as far back as 2006 the Government recognised the growing popularity of this hobby and included it in their Model byelaw 2: guidance notes: Byelaws for pleasure grounds, public walks and open spaces Metal detectors Guidance Note 31 states; Local authorities may introduce byelaws to prohibit or restrict the use of metal detectors in pleasure grounds. Byelaws to prohibit the use of metal detectors may be appropriate in grounds requiring special protection, for example areas consisting of closely mown and carefully cultivated turf and flower beds or sites of archaeological botanical or scientific interest or areas much used by blind or disabled persons. However, a byelaw which prohibits the use of metal detectors in areas not in need of special protection or from all the grounds in a particular area may be seen as over-restrictive and unreasonable.

The model byelaw can be adapted to provide for partial bans as necessary. 32. Where a local authority wishes to introduce a byelaw to restrict or prohibit the use of metal detectors in any ground, we consider that it should first consult any local metal detector clubs or a national body representing metal detector users, such as the National Council for Metal Detecting, 51 Hilltop Gardens, Denaby, Doncaster, DN12 4SA (website address: www.nmcd.co.uk (external link), telephone number: 01709 868521; e-mail: trevor.austin@ncmd.co.uk The Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Buildings, Monuments and Sites Division, 2-4 Cockspur Street, London SW1Y 5DH (Dr Roger Bland Tel 020 7211 2011 should also be consulted. As I type there are many local  authority policies regarding Metal Detecting on the internet and Wigan is letting down its residents by not having one. I look forward to your response. 

Response from Councillor Nazia Rehman - Portfolio Holder for Resources, Finance and Transformation

The council does not currently have a policy and whilst we have committed to produce one we can’t provide a timeline for its production at this point. This is because there are a number of corporate land management policies that need review/refreshing, as well as new policy requirements. The council does not have capacity to do all this at once, but work is underway to prioritise the full workload of the Corporate Land Management Team so that a timeline can be developed. In the meantime the approach currently adopted by the council for metal detecting on council land remains that we do not allow metal detecting on Council land.

Question reference number 86400/86401/86402/86403/86404/ 86405

  • Please can someone tell me why the report contained in the Agenda portal for the next Cabinet meeting on 2/8/2018 does not include all the up to date information, in particular, why the fact that the community nominated the land as an Asset of Community Value on 20/7/18 was omitted from the submission? (Agenda item 6 is the issue). Also why the efforts made by the community to tidy up the garden and the use they have made of it has not been included in the submission to Cabinet?
  • Why can't brownfield sites be used instead of building on green sites (e.g. The Cherry Gardens)?
  • I would like to ask why there is a serious proposal to allow the land adjacent to the Cherry Gardens pub on Wigan Lane to be used to build a shop on. There is no public need nor desire for a new shop in this location. The land was given by the previous owners as a common space. How can this land be given over to private use? Thanks.
  • This question is with regards to the proposed disposal to the land adjacent to the Cherry Gardens, commonly known as the Cherry Gardens Community Garden. The report references additional business rate income as a factor which favours disposal, however dismisses objections as planning concerns. This is duplicitous. How can the report highlight an income stream for the council as a benefit for disposal whilst recognising that the use of the land is subject to planning? One impression of the report could be that factors in favours of disposal are being given greater weight than objections. How does the council propose to address this?
  • My question is in two parts and refers to the proposed disposal of land adjacent to The Cherry Gardens pub. 1) If the cabinet were to vote in favour of selling the land to New River Retail
    to build a car park would the owners of the house directly adjacent to the land be appropriately compensated for the inevitable (and considerable) drop in value of their property ? Obviously it goes without saying that when they purchased their property one of the major factors alongside the property itself and it's position on Wigan Lane was it's proximity to a nice green open space. A nice green open space that belongs to the people of Wigan (not Wigan Council) and as such is protected by the covenant protecting it from development for hundreds of years. 2) With everything considered if you, as a cabinet member, actually lived in the aforementioned house would you a) vote in favour of building a car park (with all it ensues) directly next to your home thus sullying your quality of life and decimating the value of your property ? Or would you b) be fighting this morally corrupt proposal has vehemently as possible and be voting with a correct and resounding no?
  • Regarding the proposed disposal of land next to the Cherry Gardens in order to develop into a supermarket, what exactly is your financial incentive for this?

Response from Councillor Nazia Rehman - Portfolio Holder for Resources, Finance and Transformation

Your submission was made in advance of the Cabinet considering the issue at its meeting on 2nd August 2018. At that meeting the Cabinet was of the opinion that the site should be retained by the Council and it was suggested that the residents work in conjunction with ‘The Deal’ to ensure the best use of this community asset. The Cabinet decided that, in view of the objections received, the Council’s interest in this site will not be disposed of. Whilst the above does not answer the specific points raised in your question it’s assumed that the decision taken by Cabinet has meant your concerns have been dealt with in a satisfactory way.

Question reference number 86406

I’ve lived in Winstanley on and off (went to university) for over 40 years. When I was young we went to the local youth club (now houses) we didn’t burn burn bins or do anything really bad as the local police man would take you home if you did and then your parents would absolutely ground you forever. We were all frightened of the Police. Today we have bin fires anti social behaviour and children which is what they are “CHILDREN “, running loose but YOU could stop this, if we had a drop in Centre place to meet and not be judged as a child all this would stop. I would like a budget for them to do jobs pick litter up anything and it would stop as they would have something to do and then money to go out instead of burning bins. These children are our future I speak to them and could get all this to stop. It’s costing a fortune in fire brigades police and ambulances. Happy to meet with you and stop this before a child dies.

Response from Councillor Chris Ready - Portfolio Holder for Communities and Neighbourhoods

Thank you for raising your concerns re the behaviours of some young people in the Winstanley area. As a Council we are keen to work with local residents to see how we can address issues such as anti social behaviour in communities. It is encouraging to see that whilst acknowledging the seriousness of such behaviours and the negative impact they are having that often the solution is a better offer to young people that would allow them to be diverted away from negative behaviours into positive ones. I would be happy to meet with you to explore a range of options that we could look at. These would include staff from the Targeted Youth Support Team visiting the area to gain an insight into what is going on directly and meet with the young people to discuss with them what positive activities they would like to take part in locally. They would also liaise with Police and GMFRS if necessary and take appropriate actions.  This would also include discussions with yourself re the possibilities of local people getting together with us as a Council to look at funding to develop some local youth provision / activities in the area. There is a possibility of applying for Community Investment Funding to support this as one option, but there are others. 

Question reference number 86407/86408/86409/86410

  • I would like to know what is happening to Haigh Hall and it’s public access. As far as I'm aware, the grounds are for the public of Wigan yet the company running the hotel appear to be limiting access from around the Hall. This seems to be contravening the covenant put in place when The Earl of Balcarres gave the land and hall to the people of Wigan. It also is creating access issues for wheelchair users and families with prams.
  • Could you please tell me if there are any plans in place to deal with Contessa Hotels' blatant disregard of their lease conditions regarding accessibility of Haigh Hall and it's grounds ? Also, will anything be done about the hideous and completely unnecessary white lines that have been painted on the main drive (without permission - I hope !) It's graffiti plain and simple. Can you imagine somewhere such as Tatton Park or Chatsworth House doing such a thing ? The short answer is no, they wouldn't. Like I say it's crass and entirely unnecessary and makes it look an A road ! I agree that Haigh Hall desperately needed investment after decades of Council neglect but the way it's being done is now starting to border on criminal. I look forward to your reply.
  • Why is section 4.22 in the lease to Contessa hotels and the council with regards to public access not being enforced?
  • I walked up to Haigh Hall on Sunday for the first time in a while and I was shocked at the restrictions that have been put into place regarding public access and egress. Locked gates and fencing to completely prevent public access to the areas around the hall. I understand that the erection of fencing or any other structures to prevent public access is in breach of the lease issued to the company, see paragraph 4.22, Why is this is blatantly being allowed to happen? 4.22 retention of public access - The lessee will not erect any hedge, fence or structure along the boundary to the premises or within the premises which shall prevent, hinder or restrict pedestrian access and egress of members of the public along any of the pathways or roads within the premises to and from the lessors property as indicated in the plan Is the lessee in breach of the lease?

Response from Councillor James Moodie - Lead Member for Leisure and Public Health

The council has been seeking to address the issues of public access with the hotel since April when the gates were initially installed. It is frustrating that the matter is not yet resolved.

The gates are open a lot of the time, but the hotel is not opening them at peak times and when they have an event on. The position that the hotel is adopting is that the gates will be open 8am-8pm except during school holidays and bank holidays/busy weekends. They have been advised that this does not comply with the lease unless an alternative pedestrian route is provided. We are also waiting for the gates to be connected to the electric supply so that they can be opened via a call button system. The hotel has not given us a date for this as it’s dependent on lighting elsewhere.

The Cabinet is very aware that the restrictions on access at some times is causing a lot of local bad feelings. We considered the matter at our meeting on 2nd August and asked for a meeting with officers and ward councillors with the hotel in order to resolve this once and for all. We also asked for legal opinion on action that can be taken.

The white lines require consent from the council as the Local Planning Authority in relation to the discharge of a planning condition. The decision in relation to this will be made taking in accordance with relevant procedures and taking into account the appropriate planning policies.

I hope this reply gives you an assurance that the council is taking this matter seriously and working to deal with it urgently.

Question reference number 86411

I am concerned about the state of the parking area in general at Douglas House and I would like to know who is responsible for the land and maintenance?

Response from Councillor Terence Halliwell - Portfolio Holder for Housing and Welfare

I can confirm that the Council is responsible for maintaining the car park and surrounding area. The Council’s Streetscene Team are responsible for ensuring the car park is clear from litter and that the grass and shrub areas are clean and well maintained.

The Council has recently carried out some improvement works to the footpaths surrounding Douglas house and we have further works planned to repaint the parking bays.

Question reference number 86412

Can I ask what The Mayor's Fund for Town Centres is and if it still exists? If it does how does it work and if it doesn't has something similar replaced it? I am concerned particularly with my own town of
Golborne.

Response from Councillor Carl Sweeney – Planning and Environment Services

In 2017, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, launched a new initiative called the Town Centre Challenge – to regenerate town centres across Greater Manchester. The Town Centre Challenge invited all councils across Greater Manchester to nominate a town within their area to be part of the initiative. The Mayor, working with each council, aims to bring together housing providers, public and private landowners, developers, community groups and other key stakeholders in a concerted effort to support local councils to unlock the potential in town centres, particularly to deliver new housing and create sustainable communities.

At its meeting of 7th December 2017, the council's Cabinet considered the various town centres within the borough (including Golborne) to determine which of our towns best met the criteria for the new Mayoral initiative. The nominated town centres need to have a strategic focus, potential for transformational change, potential for new housing and to build on existing development activities within their areas.

In this case, members determined that Leigh town centre was the most suitable nomination for the Town Centre Challenge, which met all the necessary criteria. They considered that the council's existing commitment through its Believe in Leigh initiative will help to regenerate Leigh to promote new housing development and to make it a more welcoming and attractive centre for shoppers and visitors.

Following this nomination, a number of meetings have been held with developers, potential investors and the local community and a number of key projects are progressing, including:

  • the upgrading of the archives at Leigh Town Hall
  • the refurbishment of the privately owned Turnpike House to provide new apartments
  • future development of the former BICC site at West Bridgewater Street for new housing next to the canal.

In addition, the council is currently consulting on its complementary 'Believe in Leigh' Initiative to identify priorities for the £5 million available funding that is being made available for the area.

Whilst the Town Centre Challenge focus is on Leigh town centre, I would like to reassure you that the regeneration of our other town centres, including Golborne, is not being ignored.  As you may be aware, the council is preparing a series of masterplans for our town centres. These documents are being prepared to identify opportunities for investment within these areas and work on the new masterplan for Golborne is due to start shortly.

These plans are intended to both inform how limited local authority resources are best deployed, and help attract the inward investment that we need to support the growth and regeneration of our town and district centres. We are also working with local businesses and communities – both have a critical role to play in ensuring the long term success of our town centres. Through The Deal principles, and with support such as that available from the council’s existing Community Investment Fund, we are encouraging local stakeholders to invest in their own communities.

The Golborne Masterplan will identify key sites for promotion and marketing for future development, and will assist in securing external funding, where available, to bring those sites forward.  We are also looking at how we can use our own land assets in a responsible and sustainable way to deliver our growth and regeneration objectives. 

As background, previous masterplans for Wigan, Leigh and Ashton centres can be viewed in our business support section.

Question reference number 86413

Has the Council chamber, and the Cabinet, adopted the IHRA's full definition of anti-Semitism, like 200+ other Councils, and if not, why and when will it vote on the matter?

Response from Councillor David Molyneux – Executive Leader and Portfolio Holder – Economic Development and Regeneration

A report recommending the adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism will be taken to the meeting of the Council’s Cabinet on 25th October 2018 and then on to the full Council meeting on 7th November 2018.

Question reference number 86414

How can the local people of Golborne influence how the section 106 money is spent in our area. A substantial number of new houses are being/have been built which means there is a lot of money paid in by the developers. Who decides how it is spent, and is it all guaranteed to be spent in the area where the houses have been built?

Response from Councillor Carl Sweeney - Portfolio Holder for Planning and Environment

Thank you for your email and your interest in influencing how development contributions can be spent in your area. You may be aware that a member of Wigan Council’s Planning Department recently gave a short presentation to the Believe in Golborne group regarding Section 106 in late July. 

Approximately £8m in developer contributions has been committed by the housebuilders, as signed in Section 106 agreements for developments across Golborne and Lowton. These monies are negotiated at the time the planning application is decided and are required to mitigate the impacts of developments. Of the funds committed approximately £2m is ringfenced for education improvements and £120,000 (or £100 per dwelling) for community infrastructure.  

The remainder (around £5.8m) is not yet assigned to specific projects, and whilst there is some flexibility on how this could be spent, a  notable proportion is likely to be required to deliver necessary new and improved highway infrastructure to increase highway capacity in the area, including at key junctions along the A580; this is in line with the Golborne and Lowton Infrastructure Assessment.

Once a package of transport improvements has been determined and costed, the amount of money remaining for non-highway related infrastructure will become clearer. In accordance with the S106 agreements and Planning Regulations, these funds could include community infrastructure and recreation provision.

The most appropriate time for Golborne and Lowton residents to input into this process is when the planning application is consulted on. However we are exploring opportunities for some of the more flexible elements of the s106 funds to be spent through community input e.g. the proportion of funding available for community facilities and there may be some flexibility around recreation provision.   

However, it is important to reiterate that the Section 106 money is not an open fund that can be spent on any project. It must be spent on projects that accord with the S106 agreements and national planning regulations, otherwise the Council would be open to challenge from housebuilders and potential clawback.

Question reference number 86415

I recently read the Children and Young Peoples Scrutiny Committee Performance Review that was presented at the August 2018 meeting. To be honest, I was quite surprised at performance and the impact that poverty is having on children in the borough. There was one thing that I noticed and wondered if you could clarify my interpretation. In the statement below, taken from the report are you saying that the more children that get adopted the better the performance or have I misunderstood? "We launched Together for Adoption in September 2017, one of the first regional adoption agencies to go live, with Wigan as the host. 22% of children leaving our care are adopted. This is considerably better than our regional (16%) and national (18%) comparators compared to 16/17 performance. 2017/2018 comparator data will be published later in the summer."

I ask this question in the light of recently having the opportunity to listen to Professor Andy Bilson talk about his current research which focuses on the overemphasis on risk in the child protection system and the separation of children from parents through adoption and care. As part of that research, he detailed and provided evidence of the increase in adoption rates within Local Authorities. Adoption rates have increased in Wigan and I wondered if that is because you are wanting to be better at it than other authorities or whether you feel there is a connection with a reduction in early intervention and prevention and an increase in investigative rather than supportive approaches?

Response from Councillor Jenny Bullen - Portfolio Holder for Children and Young Peoples Services

Thank you for your question regarding adoption rates in Wigan, and quest for clarity as to the experience of Wigan children where there is a plan of adoption and our practice as regards early intervention and support for families and children to ensure the best outcome, which is so children can remain in their families.

The percentage of children who leave care via an adoption order is 22% in Wigan, which is higher than the Regional and National average. Significantly however, the rate of adoption of children in Wigan is a decreasing number, as it is regionally and nationally. For those children who have a plan of adoption this needs to be set in a context that all children who are adopted have been subject to rigorous scrutiny by the legal system and the Family Court. The Local Authority and the judiciary will have agreed that the threshold for a Care Order has been met, and that the Local Authority has assessed and exhausted all opportunity and support for any potential family or other carers. Adoption would thus have been the only realistic option.

The research carried out by Professor Andy Bilson of the University of Central Lancashire, found in the 20 authorities he researched that adoption rose over five years, and that the number of children in care had risen as well. This is not the case for Wigan, the number of children looked after in 17/18 is slightly lower than those in 15/16. The number of adoptions decreased from 41 in 16/17 to 33 in 17/18. There has also been a corresponding decrease in Placement Orders, 28 placement orders made in 16/17 and only 23 orders made in 17/18. With fewer children having confirmed adoption plans there will continue to be a reduction in the numbers of adoption orders. Nationally the figures of children adopted from care has fallen by 13%, and has been falling since 2015. There has been an 18% decrease in children placed for adoption from 17 to 18, and a 44% decrease of children looked after on a Placement Order. See evidence of this (external link).

For those decreasing numbers of children with a plan of adoption, and adoption orders, we still need to ensure that we match and place those children as successfully, and timely as possible. Hence for the 22% of Wigan’s children, where the Family courts have granted a placement order, to have been successfully placed for adoption is a positive outcome. Nationally there is a shortage of adoptive families, the number of registrations of interest and approved adopters have fallen by 57% since last year. Wigan and partners in Together for Adoption, have, despite this reduction in available adoptive families significantly reduced the wait for children with adoption plans to be matched and begin living with their adoptive families. In 15/16 on average a Wigan child waited 9 months between their placement order being made and them being matched with a family. For the children adopted so far this year their average wait has been just 3½ months. The drivers for reduced adoption orders is the reduced number of children granted placement orders by courts (which confirms the plan of adoption and authorises the LA to place a child for adoption). Linked to this is the hard work done by Wigan’s staff and partners working with families to explore other permanent options for children including them staying with their parents with more support or with relatives or friends, for example subject to Special Guardianship Orders. We are asking the courts for fewer placement orders and instead seeking different ways to keep children with their families.

Wigan has a strong ethos of Strengths-based practice and multiagency working. This is evidenced in Start Well and Early Help. Start Well is our strategy to ensure that we give children who live in Wigan Borough the best start to their life. Start Well deliver their service via multi-disciplinary teams that deliver a strengths based approach to addressing health and social care inequalities with communities through connection to community assets and key relationships to Schools and Primary Care. We are currently transforming our Start Well offer in which we will bring together Start Well locality teams, Start Well Family Centres, Health Visiting and School nursing to ensure that we have an integrated offer for the children and families of our borough. Start Well administer early help on behalf of the partnership. We currently have 2,038 number of Early Helps open across the partnership. This helps us to identify need at an early stage so that we can develop a plan alongside the family to prevent the need for specialist intervention.

In light of the focus on adoption it is also significant that Wigan Council have recently invested in the Pause model which is a well evidenced approach. Pause works with women who have experienced – or are at risk of – repeated pregnancies that result in children needing to be removed from their care. The aim is to prevent children being received into local authority care. The implementation gives women the chance to ‘pause’ and take control over their lives, breaking a destructive cycle that causes both them and their children deep trauma, as well as reducing huge costs to society and the taxpayer. Through Pause, women are encouraged and supported to take a break from pregnancy and focus on themselves to deal with multiple presenting issues which will inevitably lead to positive change and better outcomes in various areas including health, offending behaviour and drug and alcohol misuse. Agencies are asked to work with Pause Wigan to provide services in a different way, specifically to this small cohort of women.

In summary, Pause aims to prevent children being born into adverse circumstances, which would mean they would most likely enter the care system; support women to break out of the destructive cycle of repeat pregnancy/removal by addressing their underlying needs; and, in turn this will reduce the financial implications incurred as a result of Local Authorities care proceedings, and the escalating demand on agencies when the cycle is perpetuated by further loss.

Through The Deal for children and Young people, Wigan recognises the key role local public services play in enabling children and young people to make the most of their strengths in order to remain healthy and resilient. We are working in partnership with public services to promote and develop assets which will provide the opportunities required to enable all of our children and young people to be healthy, stay safe, to enjoy and achieve.

See the Deal for Children and Young People.

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