Wigan youth facility clears hurdle

A report into plans for a £6.5m youth centre in Wigan which is the brainchild of local businessman Dave Whelan has been cleared by the local authority's cabinet.

Wigan Council, which initially approved plans in May last year, has provided land at Mesnes Field in Wigan town centre for the scheme.

The council said it will contribute to the running costs of the facility, while the bid is also being funded by local businessmen Martin Ainscough and Bill Ainscough, as well as Dave Whelan.

Wigan Boys and Girls ClubWigan Council's cabinet held a meeting to consider a report into the proposals to create a 34,000 sq ft centre on the site and approve the proposed funding contribution.

The council said the cabinet noted that there had been a number of objections to the proposals from residents saying the centre would bring noise and disruption. The site is also considered by campaigners against the plans as a green asset for Wigan town centre.

The cabinet also heard estimates that as many as 3,000 children and young people between the ages of eight and 19 years old would benefit from the services provided by the centre each week.

The council said all cabinet decisions are subject to call-in for consideration by its overview and scrutiny committee. Deadline for the call-in is Tuesday 19 July.

The centre, titled the Wigan Boys and Girls Club, will be run by a new local charity, which is being advised by Bolton-based OnSide North West, a regional charity with its roots in the Bolton Lads and Girls Club.

Jeremy Glover, chief executive at OnSide, said: "I am delighted that with Wigan Council's support we will now be able to make the ambition to build a modern 21st Century youth zone in Wigan a reality."

Lord Peter Smith, leader of Wigan Council, added: "We are faced with an opportunity to do something really wonderful for the young people of our borough.

"I think we are lucky to have been given this chance and grateful to have generous local sponsors who are willing to give this project their financial support. It is a once-in-lifetime opportunity that we simply cannot afford to dismiss."

Designed by architects Austin-Smith: Lord, the youth facility will feature recreational facilities, sport, music and art studios, a climbing wall, all-weather pitches and improved public spaces.

Construction was due to start in autumn last year with the centre opening this year.

OnSide is now targeting summer 2012 for the opening of the centre.

OnSide was set up to develop local partnerships within the public and private sectors to help build facilities for young people living in urban areas.

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