PLANS to create shared house accommodation in Wigan and Leigh town centres have been given the green light by the town hall.

Both developments – for 23 Powell Street, Wigan, and 5 Market Street, Leigh – will bring vacant properties in prominent locations back into use, councillors were told. 

Although planning committee members expressed concerns about overcrowding in houses in multiple occupation (HMO) they agreed with officer recommendations to grant approval for both bids.

The Powell Street development will see a 12 bed HMO with a roof terrace created with the retention of a retail unit on the ground floor and new shop-front.

Councillors highlighted the plans include several double bedrooms meaning the number of occupants could be as many as 20.

But officers said occupancy levels would be dealt with through the licensing process, in addition to fire safety matters.

Cllr Jeanette Prescott said: “I’m surprising myself because I’m not really for HMOs, but I know we have to have them because we need them. I’m happy to pass it because it is not actually near any houses.”

Cllr Fred Walker questioned whether the retail aspect would be successful on the site but said he would vote in favour of the application as it is.

Cllr Janice Sharratt said she would ‘reluctantly’ vote in approval but said kitchen facilities should be on each floor, rather than just on the upper floor.

She added the potential for over-occupancy could be a ‘recipe for disaster’ but accepted the bid would bring a vacant building back into use.

The committee voted unanimously in favour of granting the change of use application.

Members voiced similar support for the plans to create three HMOs at the Market Street location in Leigh, amounting to 14 bedrooms.

However, they sought reassurances that the Market Street frontage and a side elevation – which faces a car park – would be maintained to "enhance the appearance of the conservation area".

Officers said the side elevation would be updated as part of the application and a condition attached to the approval will be amended to contain ‘more positive language’ regarding the repair and refurbishment of the frontage.

Cllr Walker said the building, which is in a prominent position adjacent to the town’s Civic Square and within a conservation area, has become an "eyesore".

He added: “This is the jewel in the centre of Leigh, the town hall square, this faces right onto it and to be honest this building is a bit of an eyesore.”

Members voted in favour of approval by seven votes to one.