A former colliery site near Wigan is set to benefit from a multi-million pound government grant that will put healthy living at the forefront of a massive regeneration programme. Bickershaw Colliery in Leigh, will receive funding of £16.85m to create open space, a country park, golf course and visitor centre as part of a package of measures to introduce a healthier lifestyle into an area recognised as one of England’s most deprived in terms of well-being.
The funding is part of an overall package of just under £36m awarded to Bickershaw by national regeneration agency English Partnerships through its National Coalfields Programme. The programme aims to create new jobs, homes, leisure facilities and open space in former coalfield communities throughout England. In 2004 £19.14m of funds were approved by English Partnerships to secure a mixed-use scheme in the southern part of the site, next to the Leeds Liverpool Canal.
Neil Mortimer Head of Coalfields for English Partnerships said, “Bickershaw Colliery is the largest site within the National Coalfields Programme, covering an area greater than Pennington Flash or Hyde Park and has the potential to make a big impact in the region in terms of the quality of life for local people and environmental sustainability. We are working closely with Wigan Council and the North West Development Agency on a healthy living strategy, exploring ways to encourage active participation in the new facilities, as well as opportunities for reducing carbon emissions through sustainable energy initiatives.”
Wigan Council will deliver the open space element with a free country park and community woodland, a variety of active and passive leisure activities including allotments, walking and cycling trails and two pay-and-play nine-hole golf courses. The visitor centre will include education and nature facilities; play equipment and a landscaped outdoor events arena. A planning application for the site will be submitted in 2007 and a start on site is expected in early 2008.
Peter Smith, Leader of Wigan Council and a local councillor for the area, said, “This is a very exciting project that will bring many benefits, not just to the local area which I represent, but to the borough as a whole.
“The council is fully behind this visionary plan, and we’ll work with the community and local providers to create the best possible development and deliver a wide range of leisure pursuits to suit all abilities.
“The new facilities at Bickershaw will complement those at Leigh Sports Village and Greenheart Regional Park. They reflect what people have told us they want, and demonstrate the ambition of all partners to bring about a lasting transformation of the last major area of derelict coalfield land left within our borough.”
The Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA), is bringing forward the southern part of the site with up to 650 new homes and a marina with the potential for waterside bars, restaurants and shops.
Maurice Gubbins, NWDA Policy and Partnerships Manager, said, “ The development of Bickershaw Colliery, one of the region’s former coalfield communities, is an important project for the NWDA. Additional funding for new leisure facilities will provide a massive boost to the local community helping to create a place where people want to live, work and invest.”
The proposed mix of housing, commercial units, open space and recreation uses means the project partners are in a unique position to create a fully integrated and sustainable community, contributing to the government’s agenda on climate change and minimising impact on the environment, while delivering health and housing benefits.
Ann Reid, specialist in public health at Ashton, Leigh and Wigan Primary Care Trust said, “Heart and circulatory disease is the UK’s biggest killer. Even small changes in people’s lifestyle can make a big difference to their health. The attractive open space and range of leisure and sport facilities planned for Bickershaw will make it easier for everyone in the community to build healthy living into their lives. We are delighted to be working with project partners to influence the impact on health for local people”.
The community has been consulted on a range of options for Bickershaw Colliery. There will be more consultation events in the autumn when the partners will be able to provide further responses to community feedback to date as well as information on how people can be involved in the more detailed design stages for the future development of the site.