Formby Hall demolition plans approved

Exterior of Formby Hall, Alder Street, Atherton
Exterior of Formby Hall, Alder Street, Atherton

A “much loved” community hub is set to be demolished despite a long-running campaign to keep it open.

Council planning committee members have today approved plans to bulldoze Formby Hall in Atherton following a meeting at Wigan Town Hall.

During the hearing, members heard the demolition of the building could pose a threat to local wildlife.

Resident Carol Roberts said there were environmental and health risks, adding there had been no indication of what the site would be used for in the future.

However, applicant Geoff Clark said all requirements had been met and the demolition should go ahead.

Committee members were told that if they did not make a decision by Wednesday, the application would be deemed to have been granted and the developer would be able to go ahead with the demolition plan anyway.

Planning officer Graham Dickman said the future use of the site was not under consideration and reassured members that appropriate security measures would be placed around the site to reduce a safety risk posed by trespassers.

Residents have been campaigning to keep the hub open and have received support from Bolton West MP Chris Green, who has pledged to call in the demolition decision with the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Last week, Stuart Gerrard, chair of Atherton Residents’ Association, said: “We thought the council would see sense and realise the electorate don’t want it to go.”

The Mayor of Wigan, Coun Susan Loudon, has also expressed her support for the campaign to keep Formby Hall open.

However, council officers have told campaigners the planning committee has no powers to prevent an application to demolish a non-listed building.

Coun Stephen Hellier: “We’re a planning committee, I don’t think we have any option but to approve this. I would give blood at Formby Hall in the past and now I have to go out of the area. I don’t want people to think we are happy about this but our options are limited.”

Karl Battersby, Wigan Council director for economy and environment, said: “While we understand the concern locally about the application to demolish Formby Hall it is important that people understand that the council has no powers to stop the demolition of a non-listed building if the application criteria is fulfilled.

“Formby Hall was sold by the council five years ago along with four other civic venues due to significant financial pressure caused by the council having to save £100m over five years.

“Our powers are restricted regarding its future.”A spokesman for Wigan Council said: “It is important to note that planning permission is not required to demolish a non-listed building such as Formby Hall.

“Planning law meant the council’s planning committee were only able to consider the demolition will take place and whether there are acceptable proposals for the restoration of the site.”