Wigan Borough Environment & Heritage Network meeting
10.30 a.m. 14th March 2011 at Tudor House, Hindley

Present - John O'Neill (Greenheart Partnership Board), Richard Sivill (Atherton Heritage); Geoff Jones (Astley Green Colliery Museum); Ken Barston (Stubshaw Cross Residents Group); Tom Price & Peter Taylor (Wigan Civic Trust), Gordon Winnard (Lancashire Irish Heritage Centre), Jan Johnson (Hesketh Meadows Action Group); Vince Price (Atherton); Avis Freeman (ETNA); Joe Taylor (Billinge History/Heritage Society), Jason Kennedy (conservation officer Wigan MBC)

Apologies: Glenys McClellan & Margaret Harrop (Leigh & District Family History Society); Mary Pennington (Wigan Archaeology Society); Jackie Roberts (Bridleways), Peter Goodwin (Mirabilis Media), David Shallcross & Dave Wilson (Leigh Ornithological Society); Brain Parr & Tom Glover (Discovery Group); Carol Tyldesley & Rachel Bryant (Heritage Services),

Announcements: Victoria County History website at www.victoriacountyhistory.ac.uk; Reel History of Britain reelhistor@bbc.co.uk; On 15th of February there was a community archaeology project meeting about Etherstone Hall, near Leigh Sports Village; the LDF core strategy has been produced (last date for input 24th March) see the Council website; the design awards of building excellence were held last month; grants have been raised to upgrade that part of Wallgate from the railway bridge to Library Street.

Minutes of last meeting; True and accurate.

Matters arising:

Glenys McClellan had written in to say that 500 trees had been planted at Lightshaw Meadows and this had been reported in the local newspaper.

Further Discussions on an Alternative to Township Forums:

The chair and the secretary had seen the appropriate cabinet member, Kevin Anderson, regarding the discussions held at the previous Environment & Heritage Network meeting 31 January and informed him that we thought:

· The Township Forums as presently structured should be abolished

· Ward-wide forums to be encouraged based on those operating in Standish, Shevington, Aspull, Orrell, Winstanley and Lowton.

· These ward-wide bodies to be duly constituted, all-inclusive and managed entirely by the community.

· Local authority department officers and second-tier voluntary sector organisation professionals to play no role in the establishment, management or development of these community-managed ward-wide bodies but to provide, where possible, such support as may be reasonably requested

· These ward-wide bodies, when duly constituted, to receive the monies presently allocated to the Township Forums as 'engineering money,' to use as these ward-wide bodies democratically decide, in compliance with the terms of their constitutions

It was also noted that the longer the gap between ending the Township Forums and the ward-wide system being in place, the harder it will be to get the new system established.

Reports:

Avis Freemen reported that the bulbs they planted are coming up (about 5 million bulbs have been planted in the Borough as a result of Wigan in Borough in Bloom) and that progress with the marina at Bickershaw South is well under way.

Richard Sivill reported:

In Atherton there is growing concern about the operation of the township forum.

The Brigers Community Group feel we have operated a successful group for the villagers of Howe Bridge since its formation in 1998 so we have decided to hold a conference on Friday 17th June 2011 in the Scout Hut on Leigh Road in Atherton. The conference will be to celebrate what has been achieved and will include workshops for representatives from other community/social groups within the borough to show them how this has been undertaken. In addition we will be inviting the different groups/organisations who have helped us so they can demonstrate their products/skills and will be available for advice. A "tour" of the village will also be undertaken to show its history and the various projects that have been undertaken.

If any member would like further information or to attend the conference they should contact our Chairman Terry Daly on 01942 603175 or e mail terrydaly1@sky.com

Ken Barstow reported local schools, as part of their heritage education projects, are using the Heritage Garden.

Geoff Jones sent in the following written report:

The harsh winter has slowed us down a bit but the railway extension is still going forward and will pick up as the weather warms up. The Winding Engine is now fit to operate on compressed air, steam being financially unviable at the moment. We intend to operate the Engine on the first Sunday of each month starting in May. Because of the limitations of the compressors this will probably only be for a few minutes each time, but repeated as the compressors revitalise themselves. I think I could do with some of that! The grade 2 listing and industrial monument status led us to request permission to do so from both English Heritage and Wigan's Conservation officer, which has been granted.
A current headache at the moment is the Headgear (mine tower). Despite it being, yet again, Grade 2 listed and an industrial monument it is far beyond our meagre finances to fund its full restoration. We sought costs initially for a structural survey so that we could ascertain indicative costs for

a. Any structural rectification to maintain its safety short term.
b. The longer-term full restoration costs with at least a 20 years' paint life.

Unfortunately neither Entrust or Viridor Landfill Credits seem to be able to grasp that we cannot approach other bodies for the half million or so funds to fully restore the structure, without the survey being completed and reported on first. I don't know of any potential funding agencies which would entertain us without indicative costs from the survey -a real 'chicken and egg situation'. Viridor have also suggested that if they do fund the survey then we would have to complete the FULL restoration within a year or return the money! The survey will cost £9,100 so I approached the Council (the owners) to see whether they would offer any support and in these difficult times got an expected answer in the negative. However I have re-approached Viridor to see if they would extend the 12 months deadline to two years, which would be far more meaningful, but still tight on timescales. I am awaiting an answer. I have also canvassed Andy Burnham on the subject so maybe, maybe, something might happen from his quarter?

Cosmetic restoration of our buildings and exhibits continues and to keep the 'ne'r do wells' at bay we have spent significantly on further c.c.t.v. and sensors.

As we go into spring and hopefully warmer weather, caravan clubs continue to hold their weekend off-season rallies here, which is an additional source of income. Also we are starting to see our school visits requests, the first being from a school in Grappenhall, Warrington - not renowned for any coal mining activities in the past! We have also entered into an agreement with Dam House to relay visitors from one venue to the other. Feed and water them at Dam House, educate them at Astley Green!

We have a Stationary Engine Rally on 17th April and a Velocette Motor Cycle event on the 3rd July.
Next year is the centenary of the Winding Engine and Headgear so we intend to hold a community gala to celebrate with as much of the entire local, national and media attention we can muster.
We have also been supportive of Wigan's Heritage Service in supplying artefacts and a slide show, given by me, on 'Dangers down the Mine', which seemed to go down well with no casualties noted in the audience. We are also supporting the 'Loss of Face' project, which is principally aimed at recording the oral history of mining within the former Wigan part of the Lancashire Coalfield.
Just taking up from the discussions at the meeting today, I don't think that government officials, at all levels, realise that Volunteers conduct their business purely for something they fervently believe in, carry out without any financial recompense, spend significant amounts of their own time and expense in carrying out their interests and still have need to balance their time between both their society and families. This is a personal view, which I mentally refresh every time I go to the museum and see what is, and has been, achieved with immense efforts from such a relatively small volunteer workforce. Considering that our volunteers can walk out of the gates and not return any time they wish, this really does show commitment - and probably also because we have machine gun nests on the gate posts should they wish to join the escape committee! Thank goodness the underground tunnels are all flooded or they might have tried that escape route!
We still have lots to do and, God willing, the resolve to do it!

Future Heritage & Environment Projects:

John O'Neill has spoken to Rachel Bryant about various projects that could happen in the future; recording the public art on display, as in churches, by photograph with a written commentary; collecting objects that have specific meaning to different parts of the borough; an essay competition on topics relating to heritage to go in future editions of Past Forward etc.

Any Other Business:

A flower festival is being held at Lowton St Mary's on the 25th and 26th of June.


Next Meeting 18th April 2011