Council chiefs have made a dramatic intervention in a bid to save a popular community hall from being bulldozed to make way for houses.
Wigan Council has confirmed that Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles, which runs leisure and culture activities in the borough, is considering bidding to run the Rose Centre in Lowton.
We will be highly delighted if it can remain a civic building and Inspiring Health Lifestyles could take it over.Ed Thwaite
The building, formerly known as Lowton Civic Hall, was sold by the council to Rose Leisure, which has also been known as 8th Wonder, several years ago and a planning application to transform the site into houses was submitted to the local authority late last year.
However, the sale cannot now go ahead on the building, which has asset of community value (ACV) status, until the start of May unless it is a grass-roots group buying it.
Penny McGinty, Wigan Council’s assistant director for leisure and property, said: “The Rose Centre, formerly Lowton Civic Hall, has been listed as an ACV. This means the owner cannot sell the hall except in compliance with the ACV regulations. Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles have requested to be considered as a potential bidder.
“This now places a six month moratorium on the sale, expiring May 2, during which time the owner may continue to market and negotiate a sale but may not complete a sale except to a community interest group.
“At the end of the six-month moratorium the owner is free to sell to whomever it wishes and at whatever price.”
The town hall’s unexpected intervention has delighted residents’ groups and ward councillors who feared the building faced a similar fate to Atherton’s Formby Hall.
Ed Thwaite, chairman of the Lowton East Neighbourhood Development Forum (Lendf) which applied for the ACV status, said: “We will be highly delighted if it can remain a civic building and Inspiring Health Lifestyles could take it over. It proves applying for the ACV has done some good and we may be in a position not to end up like Formby Hall.
“Hopefully it can be turned into something very nice again. If that happens we will be delighted.”
Lendf is just one of the local groups in Lowton which uses the Rose Centre, hosting its popular annual Last Night of the Proms concert there.
Lowton East ward representative Coun James Grundy said: “We are delighted that the council is considering this option. We believe it is the right thing to do and myself, my colleagues and indeed the community as a whole will be wishing them the best of luck with this strategy, which we whole-heartedly support.”
Pemberton-based business MHI Developments submitted the planning application to build 36 new homes “on land formerly occupied by Lowton Civic Hall”. An application for a car park nearby was also lodged.