Wigan Borough Environmental & Heritage Network Meeting
10.30 a.m. Monday 2nd November 2009 at Tudor House, Hindley

Present-John O'Neill (Greenheart Partnership Board), David Wilson (Bickershaw Conservation Group), Jackie Roberts (Bridleways), Joe Taylor (Billinge History/Heritage Society) Geoff Jones (Astley Green Colliery Museum), Glenys McClellan, (Leigh Family History Society), Richard Sivil (Atherton Heritage), A.J. Smith (County Bird Recorder), Thomas Price & Peter Taylor (Wigan Civic Trust), Ken Barston (Stubshaw Cross Residents Group), Nigel Morley (Wigan Finescale Railway Modellers), Avis A Freeman (Leigh Soroptimists), Mary Pennington & Eric Walter (Wigan Archaeological Society), Rachel Orme (L&CT), Jenny Tunney (MBC conservation dept), Tom Glover & Brain Parr (Discovery Group), Carol Watson (Encompass)

Apologies- Ann Rampling (Town Green Residents Association); Peter Goodwin (Mirabilis Media), Simon Dale (MBC), Carole Tyldesley & Zenno Vattev (Wigan Leisure & Culture Trust),

John O'Neill opened the meeting by welcoming those present and noting apologies.

Carol Watson gave a brief overview of the proposed 'Electoral College' methodology to select community representatives to the many positions now required by the restructure of the LSP architecture and answered questions arising.

Minutes of the last meeting-true and accurate, passed

Matters arising:

The £3000 from Awards for All, to help found groups, was discussed. It was decided that £300 should go to the Environment & Heritage Network and that £150 of this would go to Tudor House towards meeting venue rental. £300 each should go to Billinge & Orrell Transition Group, Billinge & Orrell Allotment & Gardening Association and Town Green Residents Association. It was agreed that £800 should go to the Discovery Group, in part to assist with the purchase of equipment. It was decided that, should no more groups form before the next meeting, we should consider how best the surplus might be distributed among the existing groups for training and equipment.

The DVD we received funding to produce is finished. Resource packs are being printed then copies of the DVD and resource pack will go to18 schools in the borough. It was agreed that the £3,000 balance outstanding to Mirabilis Media be paid on receipt of the invoice.

John O'Neill reported on the painting 'Going North' by George Earl that hangs in the Council Chambers. It might be better displayed where the public have better access to it.

John had attended the follow-up meeting with the management of the Grand Arcade about the Roman display. Two booklets are planned, one for adults a one for children. Attempts are being made to come to an arrangement regarding the printing of these booklets.

Wigan Borough in Bloom held a Big Thank You event. Lots of people across the borough are now involved and from network members Subshaw Cross and Foundry were recognised for their outstanding projects. The latter was also successful for North West in Bloom. Lots or people across the borough are now involved in various aspects of the scheme and local groups are encouraged to participate.

New Planning Proposals Related to Heritage:

The government has issued new proposed guidelines for councils about how they can use 'historic assets'. The new policy claims to be about 'protecting the historic, environment, archaeological sites, historic areas etc.' whilst sending a clear message that 'the historic environment should be seen as an asset not an obstacle to development'. Though it will make the process easier to understand, there's a real danger that it will make it easier for developers to get their way. The chair has written to the planning department re our concerns and requested that we, as a Network, be consulted on all matters concerning heritage.

The OnSide North West Charity proposed application regarding the Mesnes Playing Field (the old Wigan Grammar cricket ground) is a case in question for a £6.5 million sate-of -the-art youth centre to be built on land that was left to the borough for open space. The Network and Civic Trust have expressed their concerns about this proposal

The New Council Committee System:

From May 2009, changes were made in the way the council's committee system works. Scrutiny committees consisting of 15 councillors, plus the chair, will scrutinise the performance of the new Thematic Partnership blocks. The block that concerns us is the Economic, Environment, Culture & Housing Block (EECH). The chair has written to the officer in charge to ask that we be informed when anything relating to environment and heritage comes up on the agenda and that we are sent a copy of the annual work plan.

Network Visits to Environment & Heritage Sites:

It was agreed that members should visit Astley Green Colliery Museum November 16, starting 10.00. The tour will take about two and a half hours. For further information call 01942 708969.

Suggestions for other sites to visit in the future included Howe Green Village and the Bickershaw site.

A Bickershaw site visit would be best arranged for late June/early July and would be designed as a multi-interest event - e.g. looking at two small flashes of different ages and noting their evolving flora and fauna; crossing bare pit dirt and seeing the early examples of emerging plant life and the effects of water erosion (giving a mini-lesson on how rivers evolve); and ending the visit on top of the ruck, again noting how different soil types accommodate diverse plant and animal communities.

Members Reports: (some given verbally - these below given digitally)

Wigan Archaeological Society:

Excavation continues at the Rectory in Wigan. Mid-Victorian garden features have been found in one area of the site and we hope that below these will be the remains of the original Frog Lane, which could date from the medieval period. A watching brief is being carried out at All Saints Churchyard whilst the flagged pathways by the church and war memorial are being re-laid. Members are also involved in building surveys and recording the remaining milestones, guide stones and earlier metal indicators in the local area.

Astley Green Colliery Museum:

2009 has been a very busy year for the Museum. We have had 29 group visits and outreach presentations to a varied selection of people. This includes French and Danish organisations. Next year appears to be continuing in the same vein as 61 students and teachers are to visit in April. Our web site
www.agcm.org.uk has certainly helped to make the site visible to the world!

Our narrow gauge railway extension is currently awaiting acceptance from Her Majesty's Railway Inspectorate re approval of a level crossing. We can then clear the conditions on the associated planning approval and start to build the railway.

Funding to enable a structural survey to be conducted on the mine headgear is being sought and once completed it is hoped that the results can be used to seek further funding for its restoration.

We have recently had visits from scrap metal thieves and the police now include the site on their patrols.

Conservation and preservation work continues on the site including the former Steam Winding Engine, the results of which will be available to view for those who visit on the 16th November.

An educational related Lottery Bid is currently on hold due to current lack of space to relocate equipment in one of the required existing rooms. Museum re-accreditation status is also proving to be a slow process.

Discovery Group:

Are active in Mesnes Park investigating the Ram Pump installation and the Depot plant Nurseries. Plan to continue with search for the Manchester to Wigan Roman Road until end of next year.

Billinge History/Heritage:

'The Billingers', re-printed as a joint venture with the author, the Society and our Network, is back from the publishers. Launch days have been arranged at several libraries over the week commencing November 16th. A percentage of the profits will go the make Environment & Heritage Network sustainable. The retail price will be £15. It was agreed that any Network member purchasing a box of 9 copies could have them at a discounted price of £10 per copy - £90 per box.
Conservation Department:
(1) Hesketh Arms PH, Shevington Moor, Shevington.
There is currently a Building Preservation Notice on the property protecting it from any unauthorised works, including demolition for a 6-month period (expires early March 2009). A listing application is with English Heritage who will assess the building and decide whether it fulfils listing criteria. The application for listing was submitted 2 weeks ago and the Council are awaiting a decision.
(2) Haigh Windmill, Haigh
The Windmill has recently received a grant of £50,000 for works/repairs to the windmill at Haigh. There is a site meeting at the Windmill this Thursday at 10am (5th November) and all invited (Civic Trust, W&LHT, etc). A subsequent press release will be issued re the grant funding.
Leigh & District Family History Society:
The society continues with their monthly meetings when attendance is usually about 40. The Christmas Meeting will be a little different with a Session of Sea Shanties by Kevin Brogen. Tickets available to cover the buffet at £4.00 each. The Monday Workshop Session continue at the Local History Section of Leigh Library usually dealing with about 4 or 5 enquirers, some of whom have travelled from as far away as Staffordshire.

Volunteers continue to add to the www.lancashirebmd.org.uk website, the indexes of births, marriages and deaths at the local Register Office and the website has now reached the 11 million entries mark.
Any Other Business:
The secretary spoke briefly about a new regional network for community activist that is being developed to support those active in the community, such as us. The web address is www.nwcan.org
Next Meeting:
December 14th at Tudor House 10.30 a.m.