There’s more to Wigan than just pie shops: reinvigorating the high street and driving the night time economy will need to be the catalyst to get wider development under way, writes Tom Hargreaves of Anderton Gables.
When you think of Wigan, you instantly think ‘pies’: after all, Wigan is home to the National Pie Eating Championships! Nevertheless, there is far more to the town than first meets the eye. For instance, did you know more than 70% of the Wigan borough is green and is the greenest urban borough in Britain?
So why has Wigan been stuck in a rut for so long? And what developments are on the horizon to ensure that the town keeps abreast with its pace setting neighbours such as Preston and Bolton?
For transport, the new A49 link road is due to open in Spring 2020. This new stretch of road will help alleviate congestion around the Poolstock area and reduce journey times between J25 of the M6 and the town centre. A second phase known as the M58 link road is due to start on site in 2020.
Wigan already has fantastic train links, but Andy Burnham’s recent aspirations for a new tram-train route between Wigan and Manchester via Atherton would be another welcome alternative to the daily battle down the M62. And looking forward, the Government’s HS2 roll out looks set to include Wigan, allowing high speed rail travel between the capital in 84 minutes, which will be integral to driving local business growth.
The face of the high street is changing as we well know. The troubles of big high street names are not lost on Wigan either, with another big name in Marks & Spencer due to depart Standishgate later this year. Redevelopment of the Galleries has long been on the Council’s agenda, with potential uses for the site recently reported as being a mixture of residential, food and drink, leisure, and possibly a hotel. A development of this nature is a ‘must’ for Wigan as the town centre economy evolves.
The balance between day time and night time economy, too, should not be ignored. The area around King Street only springs to life late at night these days, looking rather pitiful during daylight hours.
The much-anticipated Wigan Pier mixed use development will be a welcome addition, providing a new food hall, bar and event space with enabling works now underway. It is hoped that this development including a residential element will completely rejuvenate the area around Wallgate, seamlessly connecting the Pier Quarter to the town centre. A number of bars have recently appeared within Queen Street arches, demonstrating a new emerging night-time economy in an area where further development would again be very much welcomed.
Wigan has the potential to be a great place to live, socialise and do business, being home to some of the friendliest people in the North West: where else can you ask for a pie on a barm cake and not be frowned upon?