Family fury over Mary Appleton Centre closure

The sister of Mary Appleton, Frances Hall
The sister of Mary Appleton, Frances Hall

THE family of a charity worker and campaigner has blasted council funding cuts which have closed the building named in her honour.

The Mary Appleton Centre, in Leigh, faces an uncertain future after the Willow Project, which provides programmes and counselling for people suffering from alcohol addiction, lost its funding to run adult services in favour of national provider Addaction.

Although the charity will continue to run counselling services for children living in families which are affected by alcoholism, it will have to move out of the former doctor’s surgery on Bengal Street which opened in 2008.

The centre’s closure is a bitter pill to swallow for the family of well-known charity stalwart Mary Appleton, who helped to found the Willow Project and campaigned for years to provide a dedicated facility before dying in 2004.

Mary’s sister Frances Hall says her entire family have been left extremely angry by the funding cuts, and said the centre would not have closed its doors had Mary still been alive.Frances, 75, said: “My sister would be turning over in her grave. She fought really hard for this centre and had she been here she would have fought tooth and nail to keep in open. It took quite a while to get the funding and it’s in a nice spot, away from the main shopping areas in Leigh. It’s not been open that long and you would have thought they would give them quite a few more years. I just feel maddened really, it’s all wrong. They should never be closing the place.

“These services are vital in this day and age and I just don’t know where those people are going to go now.”

The centre’s future is currently unclear, with Frances being handed back the commemorative plaque naming the centre after Mary as part of the Willow Project’s move.

Frances says she still hopes the centre can be preserved for use by the charity.

Mother-of-six Mary spent more than three decades helping a variety of charities including Age Concern, the Pensioners’ Link, Wigan and Leigh Carers and the Well Women’s Group.

Mary, from Platt Bridge, became renowned in Wigan for her regular tussles with police, health bodies and other authority figures in order to improve people’s lives, and even travelled to London in order to speak up on behalf of Wiganers.

Frances said: “I would like it back as it was, and I wish someone could find a way to fund it. I would like to do something to help keen it open myself if I could. I just hope that they are going to do something positive with it, and we will keep the plaque to put back on the wall at any time.”