RESIDENTS have shared their frustration after the Council's Levelling Up bid was not for the full £20m available.

Promising to 'Level Up' communities across the country, the Government has set aside £4.8 billion for regeneration projects in areas that have been 'left behind'.

Each local authority can bid up to £20m for each MP constituency, submitting projects which outline transformative plans.

Wigan Council will submit three bids across the borough, which include Leigh, Wigan, and Ashton town centres.

Leigh Journal: An illustration of a revamped Civic Square (Pic: Wigan Council)An illustration of a revamped Civic Square (Pic: Wigan Council)

In Leigh, the Council has asked for £10m to focus on three regeneration projects; a revamp of Civic Square, enhancing town centre shop fronts, and refurbishing Leigh Market.

After discussions with local businesses and residents, these projects were chosen to "transform the image and perception of the town centre" and encourage further investment and job creation.

However, Leigh Means Business, a collection of local residents and business owners, have attacked the Council for only asking for half of the money available.

Instead of transformative plans, they called the £10m bid "just maintenance".

Leigh Journal: Steven Tomlinson, director at Leigh Means BusinessSteven Tomlinson, director at Leigh Means Business

Steven Tomlinson, director at Leigh Means Business, said: "It's a very frustrating situation because although there is £20m on the table, the Council have only put forward a £10m bid.

"Although each of the three projects is brilliant in isolation, they are ancillary plans that won't attract external investment or bring high skilled labour into the town.

"Fundamentally, it doesn't change anything about Leigh and is not going to transform anything.

"I don't see it as 'levelling up' but just maintenance."

Leigh Journal: The Council plans to revamp shop fronts in the town centre (Pic: Wigan Council)The Council plans to revamp shop fronts in the town centre (Pic: Wigan Council)

Although Leigh Means Business had liaised with the Council for around 18 months on the bid, Steven said he is disappointed that it did not include further projects that were discussed.

These included the creation of a multi-enterprise centre to attract
high-skilled workers, along with a fully pedestrianised Bradshawgate to influence a 'cafe-culture' in the town centre.

Although a range of possible projects was considered, the Council said that their bid is following the Government's "stringent criteria" to ensure that the bid is successful.

The guidance specifies that applications may be for "a single or a package of projects, but not exceeding three projects".

Leigh Journal: An illustration of a revamped Leigh Market (Pic: Wigan Council)An illustration of a revamped Leigh Market (Pic: Wigan Council)

Aidan Thatcher, Director of Growth and Economy at Wigan Council said: 

"The Levelling Up Fund (LUF) is a competitive bidding process for up to £20million, with stringent criteria set out by the Government that all applications are assessed against; there is no guarantee of £20million or that any bid will be successful.

"Feedback from round one has confirmed that bids which do not perform well on all criteria are unlikely to be successful.

"The package we have selected performs well against all the government’s criteria and therefore presents the best possible chance of securing money to invest in Leigh town centre.

"The Levelling Up Fund by itself cannot solve every issue facing Leigh town centre, but a successful bid will be the start of a transformation of the town.

"We are not stopping here; other local and national government programmes will complement the LUF to help address barriers to investment and growth."

Leigh Journal: Leigh Means Business wanted to create a fully pedestrianised BradshawgateLeigh Means Business wanted to create a fully pedestrianised Bradshawgate

In the most recent public consultation for the Levelling Up plans, the Council reported that it had 42% positive feedback, 10% neutral and 48% negative.

Earlier consultation on possible projects revealed a much higher degree of support - at around 70% and above.

As the deadline for the Levelling Up bids was pushed back by the Government, the Council said they are committed to ensuring the schemes are delivered in "the best possible way to maximise the impact on regeneration in the town centre".