Stumbling blocks for neighbourhood plan

Leigh town centre, which could be covered by a Neighbourhood Plan
Leigh town centre, which could be covered by a Neighbourhood Plan

Ambitious proposals to draw up a Neighbourhood Plan for Leigh still has several hurdles to clear, a Wigan Council report has suggested.

Councillors on the Confident Places Scrutiny Committee were told the proposed area being covered was too large to be effectively represented and there were issues with the Neighbourhood Forum speaking for the whole area.

However, the council now appears to be in a disagreement with the community after drawing up a smaller area to be covered with the Neighbourhood Plan.

The report says the initial boundaries for the Neighbourhood Plan, based on residents’ understanding of the Leigh area, covers an area which is home to around 50,000 people, two-thirds larger than any other similar plan being drawn up in the country.

Instead, Wigan Council wants the plan to cover an area where around 5,500 people live, but the prospective Neighbourhood Forum does not support this.

The smaller area would cover Leigh town centre, extending east to Bedford, west to Atherleigh Way and also taking in the canal conservation areas. The local authority says this would enable the forum to concentrate on the matters its members have always been most concerned about.

The report also says there will be issues with the forum itself as its members mostly live in the town centre and Bedford areas, which mean it would struggle to represent the entire Leigh area, and not enough people live or work in the revised area to allow it to serve as the organisation working on the Neighbourhood Plan.

In addition, the council is concerned the first proposal will stop other areas of Leigh coming up with Neighbourhood Plans for their own communities.

This concern has been highlighted by a response in the consultation from Higher Folds Community Centre, saying it would be interested in creating its own plan.

Wigan Council has described the public response to the consultation as “disappointing” as just seven replies were received.

The town hall must now make a decision on the proposals by February 6. If approved, a revised application for a forum for the new area will need to be submitted and put out to consultation.