THE battle to save a popular community venue from the bulldozers has taken another dramatic twist after council chiefs refused permission to knock it down.
The local authority confirmed it has rejected a bid to flatten Formby Hall, in Atherton, which had been bought by developers who had hoped to turn it into a nursing home and flats for supported living.
The proposals for the Alder Street venue, which is home to events such as the Bent ‘n’ Bongs Beer Bash as well as concerts, drama productions and presentation evenings, sparked outrage in the town with a petition to save the hall gaining thousands of signatures.
Bolton West MP Chris Green, who has supported Atherton Residents Association in its battle against the plans submitted by Formby Hall Investments (FHI), hailed the council’s decision.
Mr Green said: “I am delighted that this well-used and well-loved community hub is being kept open.
“This is a testament to the hard work of local councillors and the Atherton Residents Association who have fought to keep Formby Hall open.
“We now must do all we can to ensure that our community hub remains open. It’s time that Wigan Council got behind local residents and supported this community asset.”
Formby Hall’s owners submitted the rejected application to knock the building down after buying it from Rose Leisure earlier this year.
Wigan Council confirmed the owners would still be able to appeal the decision but it did not expect any challenge to the ruling to be submitted until next year.
The town hall did not give the reasons why the application to bulldoze Formby Hall was rejected.
The council also agreed to have the hall listed as an asset of community value (ACV) after an application was put in by the South East Lancs (SEL) branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), which stages the popular annual beer festival there.
The decision means it is more difficult for the owners to apply for change of use to the council’s planning department and also gives community groups the power to take over a venue which is for sale if they can raise enough money in six months.
FHI has previously said it wants to demolish the hall and build a new care facility to meet a severe shortage of accommodation and support services for an ageing population. It has also said that its development would include space for community activities.