FORMBY and Lowton civic halls have been sold to a Wigan toy firm’s property division.
New Springs based 8th Wonder have paid the equivalent of just £80,000 each for the venues.
After much speculation Wigan Council has confirmed the two organisations that will take over the five venues – Aspull Civic Hall, Ince Public Hall, the Monaco Ballroom, Hindley, Formby Hall, Atherton and Lowton Civic Hall from April 1.
But there is a growing row between the council and the community groups who were unsuccessful in their bids.
They are claiming that they weren’t offered the opportunity to buy the buildings outright and they would have been able to have made a similar – if not better – offer if they had known.
Hindley Green’s independent Councillor Bob Brierley, who has a Northern Soul revival nights business based at The Monaco, claims the council are “giving away the family silver” and is calling in Local Government Minister Eric Pickles to investigate.
Wigan-based company 8th Wonder will take over at the helm of four of the five venues: Ince, The Monaco Ballroom, Formby Hall and Lowton Civic Hall, whilst Aspull-based Aspull Entertainments will become the new owner of Aspull Civic Hall.
Government cuts in council funding meant the authority could no longer afford to support the venues through a £150,000 annual subsidy. But cabinet members and officers were determined not to abandon the civic halls to their fate but secure a new, sustainable future for them and avert the potential risk of their closure.
Wigan Council’s Service Director for Economy, Stephen Normington, said: “Although we received a number of bids from a range of different organisations the winning proposals appeared to offer the best chance of securing the long term future of the venues.
“Both of the winning bidders have clear ideas for maintaining and developing the buildings and for sustaining their value for local communities.”
As part of the process the council took steps to ensure that new deal would mean the halls would retain community use and that the new operators provide the right level of resources to guarantee the future upkeep and maintenance of the venues. The deals also came with a promise to honour existing bookings.
Darren Rose, managing director of 8th Wonder Properties Ltd, said: “Now the process of bidding for the civic centres is complete we are able to put a true perspective on the bidding process and illustrate how each community will see very little change other than improvements at each venue. All the venues will be run by an experienced team of managers from our property company.
“We have spoken to several community groups to see what services they require, the community group and councillors from Atherton have been a pleasure to work with and have embraced our vision.
“We would like to invite any local community groups in Ince to contact us to discuss what services they require and also community groups in Lowton and Hindley, especially sporting groups, who we would like to meet with and discuss our intended investment in new sporting facilities.”