Wait for report after inquiry on popular hall

The Formby Hall planning inquiry at Wigan Town Hall
The Formby Hall planning inquiry at Wigan Town Hall

Campaigners hoping to save a popular community hub now face an anxious wait following a public inquiry on whether it should be demolished or not.

Residents unhappy about the potential loss of Atherton’s Formby Hall faced representatives from the applicant and Wigan Council at the hearing at Wigan Town Hall.

“Now the inquiry has concluded we anticipate a report will then be sent by the inspector to the Secretary of State who will make a decision on the way forward.”

Wigan Council spokesman

The inquiry, chaired by planning inspector Martin Whitehead, heard from the lawyer acting for the Formby Hall Investments (FHI) group and a solicitor for Wigan Council that there was little reason to reverse the planning committee’s decision that it could be bulldozed.

However, the Atherton Residents’ Association and Norman Bradbury, speaking for the trust which previously tried to buy the Alder Street venue, asked the inspector to consider the wider circumstances of the hall’s sale.

After hearing a full day of evidence Mr Whitehead will now write a report for the secretary of state. The former communities minister Greg Clark originally called in the planning decision.

A spokesman for Wigan Council said: “The council has participated in the public inquiry alongside the applicant.

“It is important to note that the decision which was called in by the previous Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government was on the method of demolition of the building.

“It did not review the usage of the building or the circumstances surrounding its sale.

“Now the inquiry has concluded we anticipate a report will then be sent by the inspector to the Secretary of State who will make a decision on the way forward.”

Atherton Residents’ Association chairman Stuart Gerrard said: “We thought we were going to look into it all but we managed to get our points across. The inspector didn’t say we couldn’t so we said the sale was against the Core Strategy and the asset of community value status on the land, which still applies no matter what they say.”

An FHI spokesman said it could not see why the original demolition application which was approved would not still be suitable.

Bolton West MP Chris Green said he hoped the minister would save the hall.