TWO iconic buildings which housed community groups and public events for decades were bulldozed last year.

The demolitions of Formby Hall in Atherton and Lowton Civic Hall were greeted by residents with anger, disbelief and sadness.

Following the loss of these popular hubs, questions remained as to how Wigan Council would address a point outlined in its 2013 Core Strategy development plan about replacing public facilities.

One of the plan’s targets states “the loss of community facilities can be justified if it is replaced or demonstrated that it is not needed anymore.”

When asked about the void of the two sites in relation to the Core Strategy, the local authority believe it has sufficiently addressed the issue.

Kathryn Rees, assistant director for customer transformation at the council, said: “Through The Deal for Communities Investment Fund we have made significant investment into community’s right across the borough, including Atherton and Lowton, which have had an extremely positive impact on the people living in those areas.

“In Lowton there is Church Lane Community Centre and also St Mary’s Community Hall which offer varied activities each day of the week for everyone in the local community to enjoy."

Leigh Journal:

Lowton Civic Hall was knocked down in November

Penny McGinty, assistant director for corporate contracts and assets at the council, added: “Atherton Town Hall is currently undergoing refurbishment and is due to open around October this year.

“A space in the building will be run by a community group as a café and there will also be community rooms available for everyone to use.”

Chairman of Atherton Residents Association Stuart Gerrard says the council needs to find a like-for-like replacement for Formby Hall, which used to regularly host large public events.

He said: “The impact of not having Formby Hall it is making a big difference to Atherton.

“Community groups and theatres are unable to operate which and they are essential to a community’s wellbeing.

“Some things that are of value are not on the balance sheet but are priceless to the town.

“When we see the council buying The Galleries and preserving pubs around Wigan I wonder what Atherton has done to warrant such underfunding.”

Atherton Cllr Karen Aldred added: "Any community groups that are interested in looking for space can contact the council to see what venues are available.

"Myself and colleagues have worked with groups that have contacted us to look for suitable venues in the area.

"Everyone was upset and disappointed that the owners of Formby Hall did not keep it open as many thought that would be the case."

In Lowton, ward councillors and the Lowton East Neighbourhood Development Forum group (LENDF) have met with Wigan Council to discuss plans to invest money into the restoration of Lowton St Mary’s Community Hall.

Cllr James Grundy said: I think due credit should go to the council in working with us to find a remedy after the controversial loss of Lowton Civic Hall.

"There is a long way to go on the project but our meeting went well and we hope money can be put back into another facility in the village.

"This is a piece of good news that we can salvage out of something bad."