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Investment plans for Haigh Hall given green light
Wednesday 26th June, 2013

Ambitious plans to protect and enhance the existing Haigh Hall and Country Park estate have been given the green light today.

With the estate in need of multi-million pound investment, Wigan Council has decided to seek an external partner to inject much-needed cash into the site. The decision was made by Councillor Chris Ready, cabinet member for leisure, today (Wednesday 26th June).

Now that the plans have been approved, a procurement process will begin 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.

With procurement given the green light, a range of options, including turning the hall into a hotel and opening up the park for new sports or adventure activities will now be explored. 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 to reduce the cost of running and maintaining the facility to local taxpayers.

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 and we’d encourage interested parties to come forward with innovative options that will really benefit the people of Wigan Borough. Given the £76 million 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. I believe that investment is the best way to secure the long-term future of the park. Throughout the process, the views and opinions of local people will be sought and we will have an advisory group made up of local interested parties who will provide input throughout to ensure that decisions are made in the interests of the park and its visitors. Maintaining the same, if not a greater degree of access to visitors, is one of our main priorities.

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.”

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