A CALL for funding for a town centre has been dismissed as "unnecessary" by the council’s ruling Labour group.

An opposition motion presented at this week’s meeting of the full council urged the town hall to commit to more investment for Atherton.

Independent representative Cllr Stuart Gerrard said it was the town’s "turn" and with the right investment and planning it could become "one of the borough’s success stories".

Labour members said the authority has already committed to improve Atherton and a "strategic masterplan" for the borough’s district centres is being prepared.

Cllr Gerrard, who has represented the town since this year’s elections, said he "welcomed" the masterplan but questioned whether it "may be too long to wait".

He asked for a significant amount of funding to be earmarked with a 12 month implementation period, similar to Leigh’s £5m regeneration fund.

“We’ve seen so many millions in the core towns (Wigan and Leigh) in recent years, even in these austere times, including the purchase of The Galleries,” he told the chamber.

“I believe it’s now Atherton’s turn.”

He added that the town should have been chosen as the borough’s proposal for the Greater Manchester mayor’s town centre challenge scheme- which hopes to open up development opportunities- instead of Leigh.

In response, Labour member for Atherleigh ward, Cllr John Harding, said a significant amount of work has already been done on forming a masterplan for the town.

He told the chamber: “I’m surprised this motion has been put forward at all. Why? Because it’s simply not necessary.

“We’ve already been given an understanding that funding will be made available to Atherton.”

And council leader Cllr David Molyneux said the town hall had committed earlier this year to assess the needs of all of its district centres following a request by leader of the Conservative opposition Cllr Michael Winstanley.

He said Atherton could be considered if there is a second phase of the mayor’s challenge fund.

“We’ve made a pledge that we’re going to look at all the district centres, it’s not just about Wigan and Leigh. We need to know what’s needed and what needs to be spent in each of these centres,” he told the chamber.

“We need to know what we’re going to spend it on, that’s the reason for the district plan and I urge you to get involved, you know all about it.

“I don’t want it to take 10 years or 20 years to start to see investment in our district centres. The retail sector in this country is in crisis, and we talk about business rates and its impact on big chains.

“We need the government to act for the retail sector. It’s a massive part of this country’s economy.”