THE trust set up to buy Tyldesley Top Chapel has decided against attending its auction on Tuesday.

The Tyldesley Building Preservation Trust remains interested in buying what is one of the borough's most historic chapels but refuses to bid higher than the £75,000 it has been independently valued at by a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

The grade II listed building's owner Cadence Festivals Limited is looking for offers in excess of £130,000 at the auction at Salford’s AJ Bell Stadium.

Historian Peter Tyldesley, who set up the trust with Cllrs Joanne Marshall, Stephen Hellier and Nazia Rehman in a bid for the chapel to serve the community as a multi-purpose hub, said: “The trust will not be attending the auction but remains interested in discussing an acquisition of Tyldesley Top Chapel at the valuation of £75,000 provided by a member of RICS.”

An enquiry to see whether the building could be converted into a restaurant was submitted to Wigan Council in July.

The council's website says that a decision on the change-of-use enquiry from Chris White is still pending.

But the auctioneers, Pugh Auctions, has made three sets of plans available indicating possible future uses for the building and none of them are restaurant related.

Instead AFL Architects has drawn up plans to transform the chapel into flats.

Peter, who has family ties to Tyldesley, said: “One of the three sets of plans shows the community use originally proposed and the other two illustrate schemes for conversion to flats.

“While one of these utilises the current building, the other involves increasing the internal space available by means of substantial full-height extensions to the west and east elevations of the chapel and additions to the existing extension to the south.

“In both cases it seems the building’s historic John Nicholson organ – which dates back to 1859 and is on the National Pipe Organ Register – would be removed, the chapel’s boundary wall would be breached in three places to allow vehicular access and much of the yard would be given over to parking spaces.

“Planning permission does not seem to have been sought for the proposed conversion to flats.

“Tyldesley Top Chapel is a grade II listed building with problematic access in highway safety terms and there must therefore be a doubt as to whether planning consent would be forthcoming, particularly for the more radical scheme.”

The Upper George Street land on which the chapel was built is a former burial site.

Peter, a lecturer at the University of Exeter, says extensive research he has undertaken leads him to believe that bodies are still buried in the chapel’s yard.

Pugh Auctions says on its website: "We understand from the vendor that there is paperwork in place which documents the removal of all burial areas from the site."

But Peter said: “To date no evidence has been provided to support the claim that all burials have been removed from the site, which raises some obvious questions.

“Why would such a costly mass exhumation have been undertaken in the past?

“Where were the remains taken to be reinterred and recorded, as is required?

“Surely residents would remember such an invasive project, particularly given that it must have taken place some time after the limited exhumations in 1947 to facilitate the widening of Astley Street.

“And two people who worked in the chapel yard in the 1980s have told me that coffins and remains were still present in the ground at that time.”

The chapel, which was built in 1789, was bought by Cadence Cafe CIC for £50,000 in September 2015 after being awarded £188,200 by Wigan Council’s Deal for Communities Investment Fund to enable it to be used as a community hub.

The building was controversially put up for auction as a commercial property with a £150,000 price tag just eight months later after its ownership had been transferred to Cadence Festivals Limited.

It was then marketed by Monton-based Barlow White estate agency, looking for offers in excess of £210,000.

In April Cadence Festivals Limited informed the council, which had listed the chapel as an asset of community value, that it had accepted an offer for the building – the company has never revealed who the buyer was.

Tyldesley Building Preservation Trust expressing its interest in buying the building as an asset of community value triggered a six-month memorandum which prevented that deal from going ahead.

The reprieve ended on August 14, leaving Cadence Festivals Limited free to sell the chapel to anyone.