Backlash over town upgrade project snub

Stuart Gerrard
Stuart Gerrard
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Wigan Council stands accused of being poised to snub Atherton after neighbouring Leigh was nominated for assistance by Greater Manchester’s mayor.

Stuart Gerrard, chairman of Atherton Residents Association, and the town’s MP Chris Green have both called foul on the controversial proposal for Andy Burnham’s Town Centre Challenge initiative.

Mr Gerrard, who is behind online and paper petitions which have generated more than 1,200 signatures so far, said he was “flabbergasted” at the choice that town hall chiefs look set to approve.

He added: “Leigh doesn’t even fit the criteria for what the mayor’s challenge is trying to achieve. You can’t say Leigh is a ‘forgotten’ town, after all the millions spent on the sports village, retail park along the bypass, built with private investment, and all the town centre improvements.

“To be quite honest, if Leigh is going to be nominated then there will be an outcry. We’re going to continue with our petitions and try to get this overturned. They always invest in Wigan and Leigh rather than anywhere else in the borough.”

Mr Green added: “The council report appears to suggest Atherton hasn’t been picked because it requires too much intervention to be successful. Does that mean our town centre is now being passed over for regeneration and investment because Wigan Council has abandoned it for so long that now, fixing it, would be too much of a challenge for them?

“We have a lovely town centre but it has been long neglected by the local authority and this decision underlines this. I won’t let Atherton be resigned to the scrap-heap. If Atherton’s Labour councillors allow this to go ahead, especially after all the promises we have had, how can local residents ever trust the again?”

Council bosses say Leigh has been picked so the authority, in partnership, with the mayor’s office, can build on regeneration efforts in the town to date.

Canalside homes are envisaged for a new urban village, to the south of the Bridgewater Canal, and along a new Westleigh Waterfront development, alongside retail and leisure schemes.

Economic and environment director Karl Battersby said: “The council commitment will help regenerate Leigh to make it a more welcoming and attractive centre for shoppers, visitors and businesses.”