Aidan Thatcher landscape edit copy

MIPIM is the place for local authorities to forge new connections with international investors and Alison and I were proud to put Wigan’s offering at the centre of the international spotlight, says Aidan Thatcher


Wigan’s potential on show for investors

Last week I travelled to MIPIM for the first time, alongside our chief executive Alison McKenzine-Folan, to promote the investment opportunities in Wigan, writes Aidan Thatcher, director of growth and economy at Wigan Council.

As reported by Place North West, MIPIM is the place for local authorities to forge new connections with international investors and Alison and I were proud to put Wigan’s offering at the centre of the international spotlight.

MIPIM fosters close collaboration between the public and private sectors, bringing together international funds and professional experience, which together enable councils to deliver the transformational projects needed to achieve levelling up in our Northern boroughs.

As a MIPIM first-timer, I was impressed by how easy it was to meet potential investors in one location and to forge new connections. MIPIM highlighted the regeneration work of our regional neighbours in Salford, Manchester, Stockport and Rochdale and it was great to be part of that Greater Manchester delegation, individually promoting our boroughs while pulling together and fighting for investment in the North, with exciting devolution news announced while we were there. In Wigan we see the potential for creating a diverse and resilient economy and consider partnership vital to achieving that success. MIPIM was a good platform to discuss challenges and commit to collaboration to effect real change.

On Wednesday I joined forces with Stockport’s chief executive, Caroline Simpson, on the Net Zero Town Centres panel, to look at how we are working with development partners and investors to transform our town centres for future generations.

We shared learning from Stockport and their recent achievements and shone a light on Wigan and our flagship £135m redevelopment of Wigan Galleries shopping centre, a project in partnership with Cityheart. The scheme has been designed as a low carbon mixed-use neighbourhood, with air-and-ground-source heat pumps and PV units, helping to save 1,530 tonnes of carbon a year – contributing to our ambition to achieve carbon neutrality by 2038 or sooner.

We were pleased to be able to announce during MIPIM that a reserved matters planning application for the Galleries Multi Media Centre has been submitted.

Wigans former gallery site image

Wigan’s former Galleries site: proposed multi media centre. Credit: Cityheart, JMA

On Thursday, Alison joined Paul Dennett, deputy mayor, GMCA, and Mark Robinson, director of economy, Rochdale Council, for a Place North West panel session to discuss how wealth across the boroughs is unevenly spread and to look at closing the economic gap and boosting prosperity in the North of the conurbation.

Taking part in these discussions at MIPIM allowed us to showcase to investors Wigan’s many transformational regeneration projects which include:

The Civic Centre Innovation Hub, a state-of-the-art hub for start-ups and entrepreneurs, targeting the digital, arts and culture sector which has received £3.1m from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

Outside Wigan civic centre

Credit: Wigan Council and Capital&Centric

Heaton Group is bringing forward the first phase of a heritage-led mixed-use Canalside development at Eckersley Mills and has secured grant funding for phase two.

Proposed residential conversion of Mill Eckersley Mill

Proposed residential conversion of Mill 3, Eckersley Mill. Credit: CGI Works

The redevelopment of Wigan Pier will transform the famous site into The Pier Quarter, a wedding venue, gin distillery, microbrewery, food hall and events space, which opens later this year.

Wigan Pier Credit Step Places Southgate and Sarabia

Wigan Pier, Credit: Step Places, Southgate and Sarabia

The King Street Heritage Action Zone will refurbish historic buildings, with new uses driving footfall and boosting the night-time economy.

With 3.2 million passengers going through the Station Gateway area each year, the planned changes around the neighbouring Wigan Wallgate and Wigan North Western stations in the town centre will transform the external environment, improving connections, while unlocking prime mixed-use development opportunities.

Wigan Station Gateway opportunity. Credit BDP Mott MacDonald

Wigan Station Gateway opportunity. Credit: BDP, Mott MacDonald

At Haigh Hall Woodland Park £20m of Levelling Up funding will transform the grade two star-listed hall into a cultural visitor destination of national significance.

Haigh Hall

Haigh Hall. Credit: Wigan Council

And our ambitious plans continue beyond these exemplar projects already in development.  Wigan is part of a Greater Manchester corridor bringing opportunities to develop 12,000 new homes and 10m sq ft  of commercial floorspace. Sites have been identified in Hindley for 2,000 homes and North Leigh for 1,700 homes, while commercial development opportunities include Westwood Park, J25 of the M6 and Gibfield Park on the border of Wigan and Bolton.

There is a huge opportunity in Wigan. MIPIM was a great platform to showcase some of the borough’s most promising projects to a global investment audience and I am looking forward to continuing the conversations at UKREiiF in May.

Wigan Council logo

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What Wigan Council seems to forget is that it is a Metropolitan Borough Council encompassing other towns. All the money is pumped into the centre which is quite frankly a desolate and depressing place to be, people only go to Wigan town centre to catch the trains to London or Manchester. On the eastern edge of the borough, the towns of Atherton, Tyldesley, Astley and Mosley Common are thriving despite the huge lack of investment from their council which is daylight robbery considering how much the residents of these towns contribute in council tax. One has to wonder what could be of these towns if they were grouped together independently from the hindrance of Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council or if the council actually did their job and invested the money back into these towns.

By New Wave

You’re right New Wave. These areas are also growing demographically, perhaps because they are commutable to Manchester, have good family housing and are near advanced manufacturing sites.

Setting up town councils in these localities and standing independent councillors in these areas (like in parts of nearby Bolton MBC could be a solution. Bring power down more locally.


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