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Wigan Council to consider investment plans for Haigh Hall
Tuesday 18th June, 2013

Ambitious plans to protect and enhance the existing Haigh Hall and Country Park estate could be given the go ahead next week.

With the estate in need of multi-million pound investment, Wigan Council will decide whether or not to seek an external partner to inject much-needed cash into the site. A decision will be made by Councillor Chris Ready, cabinet member for leisure, on Tuesday 25th June.

If approved, a procurement process will start immediately to find a suitable investment partner, with Wigan Council retaining ownership of Haigh Hall and Country Park.

Managed by leisure and culture provider WLCT, Haigh Hall and Country Park is already a major visitor destination attracting around 300,000 visits each year. However, research indicates that enhancing the site and improving the existing facilities could attract even more visitors and bring much-needed revenue to the area.

If procurement goes ahead, the potential options could include turning the hall into a hotel and opening up the park for new sports or adventure activities. The main aim of any investment programme is to maintain public access to the park while bringing economic and social benefits to the local area. The council is also aiming reduce the cost of running and maintaining the facility to local taxpayers.

Should it be approved, the procurement process could take up to one year, with development plans potentially taking years to complete. During this time Haigh will continue to host events, activities, weddings and conferences.

Councillor Chris Ready, cabinet member for leisure at Wigan Council, said:

“Haigh Hall and Country Park is one of Wigan Borough’s greatest assets. WLCT (Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust) is doing a great job with the limited funds available to keep the site running and maintaining a lovely park and a great venue for weddings and conferences. However, with the right investment the hall and park has potential to be a world class facility. Given the £76million savings programme we are part way through at the council, we do not have the finances to realise this potential, so we need to look at new and innovative investment opportunities.

“It’s common for historic sites such as Haigh Hall to require significant upkeep. Maintenance costs together with the yearly subsidy, mean finding an investment partner could save the council more than £8 million over a ten year period. Whatever decision is made, it will be in the best interests of the park and its visitors and will ensure that access to the park is maintained. That's why the views and opinions of local people will be sought and we will have an advisory group made up of local interested parties that will have input throughout the process."

John Hulme, Chair of the Friends of Haigh Country Park said:

“We already work very closely with WLCT and we’re looking forward to engaging with the council to make sure the best outcome is found for Haigh Hall and Country Park. As the Friends of Haigh Country Park we see our role as looking after the interests of the estate and its visitors. We’ll be making sure local voices are heard throughout the decision-making process.”

Martin Ainscough, chair of the Wigan Forward Board, said:

“This move demonstrates the forward-thinking, innovative and entrepreneurial nature of Wigan Council. Rather than allow the estate to deteriorate, the council is thinking innovatively and seeking external investment to preserve the existing estate and develop it further to maximise the opportunities presented by Haigh Hall and Country Park.”

The decision about whether or not to progress with the procurement process will be made on Tuesday 25th June.

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