Becca Heron on The Galleries: 'Doing nothing is not an option'

Becca Heron on The Galleries: 'Doing nothing is not an option'

We have taken a massive positive step forward this week after selecting the joint venture strategic development partners who will help us to bring our Galleries25 vision to life over the next five years.

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve engaged with residents to understand how changes and restrictions have impacted their lives. This feedback, coupled with the responses gathered through The Galleries consultation in 2019, has helped to shape our final proposals.

We pride ourselves on listening to local views and taking residents’ thoughts and concerns into consideration when bringing schemes forward – particularly of this scale.

The feedback showed that people are using town centres differently. We knew this before Covid-19, but it has been reinforced throughout lockdown.

With shopping habits shifting online, towns are becoming the new cities and there’s a significant need to diversify our offer to provide alternative reasons for people to visit.

The Covid-19 crisis has accelerated and intensified the negative trends facing our high streets and the need for intervention is greater than ever. Doing nothing is not an option.

The joint venture partners, Cityheart and UK based contractor, BCEGI have a strong track record for delivery and their combined expertise and unrivalled skill set will help us to deliver a truly transformational scheme for Wigan, breathing new life into our town.

We know that town centres are important to residents and they want to see them thrive. People want to see arts, leisure, housing, culture, food, independent shops, craft and makers introduced, but currently there is too much retail space in Wigan to deliver this.

We published the Wigan Town Centre Strategic Framework in January 2019, which is our long-term approach to redeveloping Wigan town centre to put it on a more sustainable footing for decades to come.

The Galleries is just one part of that approach. We also have comprehensive plans for the redevelopment of King Street, the Civic Centre and the area around our train stations.

Overall, The Galleries is equivalent to almost one quarter of our core town centre, so you can see how the redevelopment of the shopping centre is a really important part of our plans.

Although the new complex will have a modern look and feel, the development will sensitively preserve the heritage and character of the area. Wigan has a beautiful town centre and we’re committed to harnessing that and building on its history.

Environmental sustainability is also at the heart of the plans. In keeping with our environmental strategy, ground-breaking construction techniques will be used to reduce environmental impact, including the installation of photovoltaics to generate solar power, energy efficient water fittings and plenty of electric car charging points and cycling storage in the car park to encourage smarter travel.

The council cannot deliver such an ambitious scheme without support, which is why I’m so delighted that we are working with Cityheart and BCEGI on this important project; a project that that over the next five years will deliver on what local residents, retailers and visitors to the area have told us they’d like to see in the town centre.

Our next step is to work with the Galleries25 team to further develop the masterplan.

As we do, we’ll continue to consult with residents and will engage directly with those affected by the scheme to talk through our plans in more detail. We anticipate that a planning application will be submitted in spring next year, with construction starting on site in 2022.

As well as reinvigorating our town centre, Galleries25 will also boost our local economy.

Over recent weeks, we’ve been promoting our Community Wealth Building strategy, which is about supporting local businesses and supply chains and helping the local economy to grow.

Cityheart and BCEGI share these objectives and will create hundreds of jobs from construction roles through to when the scheme opens in 2025, including apprenticeships.

Throughout the project, Galleries25 will also commit to supporting work experience and education visits and to spending around £52m in the local supply chain.

This year has been very challenging in all kinds of ways, but these plans signal a bright and exciting future for Wigan.

Posted on Friday 18th December 2020
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