PLANS to turn an old library into a 48-bed development compared to ‘an open prison’ have been scrapped following dozens of objections.

The proposal for the House of Multiple Occupation (HMO) was submitted by 3D Artz Ltd last year for the site of Atherton Library, on York Street, which has been ‘abandoned’ and unused since 2018 when the library service was relocated to Atherton Town Hall.

The developers bought the 118-year-old building after it was put up for sale in 2021 and submitted plans to turn it into the huge HMO, which would have seen the rooms housed within two blocks. In the proposals, Block A would have contained 18 rooms across two floors and Block B 30 rooms across four floors, the design and access statement said. 

However, there were a number of people who opposed the plans.  “Building a HMO with 48 beds is basically creating an open prison with the sorts that will reside in this accommodation,” one objection letter said.

“Can the council promise extra policing, extra security and additional parking – the list is endless. As a resident on a nearby street I will suffer significantly with this proposal. 

“Atherton library should still be that, a community hub, somewhere for people to work, read, learn, develop, socialise with friends in a comfortable setting. Now all we will see now is higher crime rates, increased and more aggressive anti social behaviour, drug taking, the discarded paraphernalia that comes from this.”

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The 11,000 sqft building was heralded as a super-modern, state-of-the-art public space when it was first built in 1905, lit by electricity and featuring a combined central heating and ventilation system, and was designed by Bolton’s oldest architectural practice, Bradshaw Gass & Hope, which went on to create Manchester’s Royal Exchange and UMIST.  However, it has been abandoned since the library service relocated and developers claimed the building “can be brought back to full use and become an active part of the local community and area” if residential use was given permission by Wigan Council.

This plan received heavy backlash from locals though, with 60 objection letters sent into the council’s planning team.

No parking provision – with the proposals only containing a cycle storage area – was a major gripe for residents – who questioned where the future residents and contractors would park. Refuse collection was also a concern for neighbours on Elizabeth Street and Bolton Road.

“I can’t strongly object enough due to the lack of parking,” one objection letter states. “York Street is a nightmare for parking as it is and there is no parking on Elizabeth Street or Hunt Street. 

“The amount of wheelie bins on bin collection days will be horrendous plus the noise of that amount of people coming and going at all hours will make Elizabeth Street uninhabitable for families with young children, like myself.”

The proposal has officially been withdrawn by the applicants, a council document confirmed.