A CONSULTATION has been confirmed to discuss the long-term future of an "underdog" town that residents desperately want to see improved.

As previously reported by the Journal, Atherton's high street has turned a corner in recent years, thanks to the gamble of local business owners and a growing mix of independent venues.

This variety of venues has helped to improve footfall and attitudes about Atherton, but as the town centre has largely had to make do without external investment, residents want to see further improvements in order to sustain its future.

READ > The 'outperforming' shopping centre where footfall is 'increasing every day'

Leigh Journal: Rachael Flaszczak and team members at the SnugRachael Flaszczak and team members at the Snug (Image: Leigh Journal)

With a proud and tight-knit community in Atherton, many residents want to support local businesses and venues like the Snug, the Cabinet, the Plaza, and Carmen Bar and Eatery have given them more options to stay local in recent years.

Improving the high street against the odds, business owners have described Atherton as an "underdog town", but they have long been crying out for external investment to spruce up the high street and make it a more welcoming place to be.

Leigh Journal: A return to the full V2 service was suggested as a way to bring more people into the town centreA return to the full V2 service was suggested as a way to bring more people into the town centre (Image: LDRS)

With Atherton train station a 20 minute walk away from the high street, the full resumption of the V2 bus service from Manchester has been suggested as a way to make it much easier for people to get in and out of the town at any time of day.

Periods of a pedestrianised high street was also given as an example to help boost footfall for outdoor eating and drinking, as it does on events like Atherton Carnival, the Nativity Parade, and last summer's Jubilee Party.

Leigh Journal: The Atherton parade is a good example of pedestriansed streets benefitting local businessesThe Atherton parade is a good example of pedestriansed streets benefitting local businesses

Aware of the concerns held by residents and business owners, Wigan Council said that it has been working on a 'Local Plan' for Atherton, which aims to implement a long-term strategy to regenerate the town and sustain its future. 

This will help to build on the council's 'Plan For Atherton', which underlines objectives to "improve and expand" Atherton's town centre offer, restore disused buildings, encourage more central housing, and enhance the landscape around the high street.

With the Local Plan already discussed with Atherton councillors, an eight-week consultation for suggestions to improve the town will begin in October.

Leigh Journal: The Keely Hodgkinson mural on Church StreetThe Keely Hodgkinson mural on Church Street (Image: Leigh Journal)

A Wigan Council spokesperson said: “We are always looking for ways we can secure additional funding that can help our district centres to not just survive but thrive. However, these opportunities can be limited.

“We have discussed our ambitions for the Local Plan with councillors and an 8-week consultation is due to begin in October.

“As part of that plan there will be policies intended to be helpful in securing any funding that does become available, but it is a long-term plan and there will need to be partnership working and local leadership.

“When the Local Plan consultation begins, I would encourage all residents to give their views and help shape the future of our borough.”