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Leigh up for the Mayor’s Challenge with new vision for town centre


A radical approach to transform Leigh town centre with more residential and leisure development should be embraced, according to Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham.

Andy Burnham, Lord Peter Smith and Chris Boardman in Leigh

A RADICAL approach to transform Leigh town centre with more residential and leisure development should be embraced, according to Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and the town’s public and private leaders.

Andy Burnham chaired a high powered meeting in Leigh on Monday March 5 as part of his trailblazing Town Centre Challenge project.

The Town Centre Challenge invites councils across Greater Manchester to nominate a town to be part of the initiative and reflects a new approach to planning and development.

In Leigh the Mayor brought together key stakeholders including public and private landowners, developers and community groups to discuss the challenges to unlocking the potential of the town centre.

A key focus of the meeting was unlocking sites for new residential development particularly aimed at younger people to create new vibrancy in the town centre.

Mr Burnham said: “The Town Centre Challenge is all about working across our 10 boroughs to regenerate town centres in all corners of Greater Manchester.

“Leigh, as Wigan borough’s nomination as their location requiring special focus and targeted regeneration, is clearly a place close to my heart – I was proud to represent the constituency for many years as Member of Parliament.

“Regeneration of these sorts of urban areas is a key priority for me. The Challenge provides councils with a significant opportunity to deliver real and sustainable change.

“I know how much people care about Leigh town centre and as Mayor I have new powers to bring to the table to help Wigan Council realise their ambitious vision.”

Andy Burnham addresses Leigh's Town Centre Challenge meeting


The meeting, hosted at Compassion in Action, heard how town centres needed to move away from being solely about retail and encourage residential development which in turn will lead to more bars, cafes and restaurants.

Lord Peter Smith, the leader of Wigan Council supported the Mayor’s approach and has backed the regeneration of the town centre with the £5m ‘Believe in Leigh’ fund, £1m of which has been spent on the regeneration of Bradshawgate and the outdoor market.

Lord Smith said: “We believe by working together we can make Leigh a better place - businesses, community groups and the council.

“We recognise people's shopping habits have changed. We need to reduce size of shopping area but make sure there's enough room to make sure people have a really good shopping experience.

“When we consulted with residents about the £5m fund they told us what they wanted. This fund will build on ours to make Leigh a thriving and attractive town centre.” 

The meeting heard plans to deliver over 1,000 new homes, extra commercial space, a better connected town centre including infrastructure for walking and cycling. 

Delegates heard there are exciting plans for further residential development at Hilton Park, Turnpike House, Leigh Spinners Mill. Westleigh waterfront and the former BICC site on West Bridgewater canal.

Chris Boardman, the Mayor’s cycling and walking commissioner, was at the meeting to listen to the discussion and seize opportunities to promote cycling and walking.

Encouraging independent businesses, pop shops, skills and training, the cultural offer in Leigh and homelessness were also discussed.