In December 2020, Wigan Council appointed Cityheart as their Strategic Development Partner for the circa £130 million redevelopment of the Galleries Shopping Centre in Wigan. The redevelopment will provide a vibrant new retail, leisure and residential scheme in the heart of the town centre, with landscaped public realm square and room for 460 car parking spaces.

Work has begun on site and will be complete by 2025.

What are the objectives for the Galleries Scheme?

The council acquired The Galleries shopping centre in February 2018 as an opportunity for redevelopment to support the growth and regeneration of Wigan town centre. The Wigan Town Centre Strategic Regeneration Framework, published in January 2019, set out a single, long-term, holistic, integrated plan for the strategic redevelopment of Wigan town centre. It included The Galleries as a major regeneration priority with the potential for the site to play a fundamental role in driving the growth of the town centre and the wider borough.

The redevelopment of The Galleries site seeks to achieve the following objectives:

  • Deliver a town centre regeneration scheme that is truly transformational for the town centre. The Galleries scheme should assist in driving up land values and lay the important foundations for future commercially driven proposals to come forward.
  • Establish a new market-led residential offer for sale and rent providing accommodation for aspirational young people, key workers, growing families, and potentially the ageing population.
  • Repurpose the retail element within the site for other uses to help diversify the town centre offer especially considering the challenges facing the retail sector.
  • Relocate the market providing a quality diverse offer to act as an anchor in its own right as well as supporting a consolidated retail core on Standishgate / Market Place.
  • Provide high quality public realm and an events square to support the relocated market.
  • Diversify the leisure offer meaning more people choose to visit and stay longer and create an evening economy that is attractive to all residents.
  • Deliver a quality hotel offer in the town to accommodate visitors travelling to watch sporting events or theatre performances.
  • Reopen the historic routes and streets to improve permeability within the site and enable integration with adjoining streets and key assets within the town.

The proposed scheme will deliver these objectives and is expected to increase visitor numbers and act as a catalyst for further investment in the wider town centre.

Will this actually happen?

In short, yes. We simply can’t afford to do nothing, especially in the current financial climate.

When Wigan Council bought the Galleries, the intention was never to buy the complex and continue managing it as a retail outlet. It was acquired to enable the redevelopment of Wigan town centre and to create a more sustainable model for the future.

Shopping habits have changed and there is now too much retail space in Wigan town centre. People want new reasons to visit. The redevelopment of The Galleries will enable some of the surplus retail space to be repurposed to bring arts, leisure, housing, culture, food, independent shops, craft and makers into the town.

The Covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these issues and if we do nothing, we risk the future of Wigan town centre.

Why have you chosen Cityheart and BCEGI to deliver the scheme?

This is the biggest transformational regeneration scheme the council has embarked on and the Galleries25 team were selected as development partners because they developed a strong masterplan and demonstrated their ability to deliver it.

A development project of this scale is complex and challenging and requires a development partner with the experience, expertise and resources necessary to deliver it.  Cityheart and BCEGI are both UK based, with a proven track record of delivering complex regeneration schemes.

There are strict procurement processes that we have had to adhere to, to identify a preferred development partner for a scheme of this scale. We embarked on an open, intensive and robust process called “competitive dialogue”.  Subject to due diligence on financial standing and professional expertise the process is open to any company.

Cityheart and BCEGI were one of 4 bidders to compete in the outline solutions stage – three bidders then progressed to put forward detailed solutions. Proposals were assessed on the basis of quality, cost and social value and Cityheart and BCEGI scored strongly under all themes. They were selected on the basis of the quality of the offer but also very much on the strength of their Community Wealth Building commitments.

Cityheart and BCEGI have made some very strong commitments to ensuring that the benefits are felt locally. 40% of recruitment will be within the borough and 60% from the north west.  £52m will be spent within the local supply chain.  We will work with local companies to ensure that they’re able to access the opportunities that the redevelopment presents.

Has the plan for redevelopment been finalised? What are the timescales?

The masterplan was developed through dialogue with the Galleries25 team during the process to identify a development partner.

The current masterplan has been shaped and refined further by consultation and engagement with the public, retailers, traders and local representative groups.

Work begun on site in 2022, with completion of the scheme in 2025.

Why can’t you use the existing building, rather than demolishing it?

At the outset when the Council invited the market to tender for the redevelopment of the Galleries and come up with proposals, they did not specify demolition. The general view from all bidders was that it was not possible to convert the whole site, which was difficult to navigate and difficult to convert.

To be clear, we are not talking about wholesale demolition, there are elements which are to be retained, these include:

  • Makinson Arcade
  • Marketgate, and
  • Woodcock Square, which will be retained and enlarged so it can be used for events.

The current layout of the shopping centre does not work, with large spaces vacant and unused. Building a new scheme with a flexible and accessible space with improved connectivity across the town centre, will help to attract more visitors. In addition, the new development has been designed to be far more environmentally sustainable than the existing centre, with ground source heat pumps and photovoltaic units helping us to save 1,530 tonnes of carbon a year – helping us to contribute towards our ambition of achieving carbon neutrality by 2038 or sooner. Electrical vehicle charging will be provided throughout, and cycle storage units will support our sustainable travel ambitions.

Will Wigan’s town centre heritage be impacted due to this development?

This scheme whilst adjacent to heritage sites, does not include any listed buildings and English Heritage were consulted when drawing up the proposals and their suggested changes have been incorporated into the scheme.

No listed buildings will be demolished as part of the development and in line with our Heritage Environment Strategy, and we will look to conserve and celebrate key heritage assets across the town centre.

In the wider town centre, a ‘Heritage Action Zone’, has been established which will bring unused historical buildings back to life, is underway on King Street and will complement The Galleries project once complete.

What are the environmental impacts of this development?

The new development has been designed to be far more environmentally sustainable than the existing centre, with ground source heat pumps and photovoltaic units helping us to save 1,530 tonnes of carbon a year – helping us to contribute towards our ambition of achieving carbon neutrality by 2038 or sooner. Electrical vehicle charging will be provided throughout, and cycle storage units will support our sustainable travel ambitions.

As part of the planning application, the developer submitted an Energy Strategy document and a Sustainability Statement report, which includes a carbon assessment of the existing structures. The assessment looks at the carbon impact of the development overall, and the alternative options of retaining and upgrading a proportion of the existing buildings was reviewed. It was concluded that as well as providing accommodation not suitable for the perceived future use, with lower levels of daylight, acoustics and flexibility of use, the operational emissions of any retained elements would be significantly higher than those proposed due to limitations in fabric and air permeability.

The overall development’s carbon impact would be greater with a higher degree of retained building stock.

How is this being funded?

Redevelopment of the Galleries is a multi-phase regeneration project which will be funded from a mix of private sector investment, council funds and grants, such as Future High Street Fund. The council is currently working with its development partner to establish a financial package that will ensure the best value for money for the council.

What market testing has been done to check demand is there for a scheme like this?

The preferred developer has undertaken its own extensive and significant market analysis into all the various uses and aspects of the scheme to determine that there is a demand for the type and level of facilities that the proposal seeks to deliver. This extensive market analysis confirmed that the demand for the proposal remains strong.

Likewise, the Council also wishes to ensure that its investment will deliver the benefits to Wigan town centre and has carefully reviewed the market analysis, which confirmed that the demand for the proposals and ensured that the Council is making wise investment choices.

The plans seem to show the removal of a lot of retail space. What does this mean for existing retailers and traders in The Galleries?

Whilst the scheme will reduce the overall amount of retail space within the town, retail will remain an important part of the Wigan town centre offer. Currently, there are lots of empty retail units and a whole section of The Galleries is closed off, which isn’t the best use of space. We are engaging all retailers on a one-to-one basis to discuss options, to either locate in the redeveloped Galleries or elsewhere in the town. In parallel, the Galleries25 team are working with the Market traders and Council team to ensure the existing market hall is kept open a fully operational up until the new market hall is open for business in 2024.

A more diverse offer, including housing, leisure, culture, food and drink and workspace, will benefit existing retailers by bringing more footfall and custom to the town.

Where will the permanent new market be and how will traders be accommodated?

The new market will be located at Marketgate. This location was suggested by a number of traders during consultation meetings due to its central location, fronting onto Wigan’s main thoroughfare, Standishgate and its proximity to public transport routes helping to increase footfall.

The market itself will be part of a diversified new market hall offer, including a food hall, café, co-working and workshop space and winter gardens. The redeveloped market is a flagship component of the scheme.

As with retailers, the Galleries25 team will continue to engage directly with traders on a one-to-one basis to discuss the redevelopment plans as they progress.

How many stalls will there be?

The intention is that there will be a mixture of market trading stalls, but also other new retail opportunities. The exact number and configuration are still being designed in discussion with one-to-one sessions with staff, existing traders and prospective new traders. The focus will be on curating a good quality modern offer which meets the needs of Wigan residents of all ages.

Will there still be an outdoor market?

Yes, there will be external retail opportunities within the new Woodcock Square and in front of the New Market Hall, the detail of which specific details will be confirmed in due course.

Who will operate the market?

The market will be operated by a private operator, with the expertise and resources to help manage it successfully. This model has been adopted in other areas and helps bring in new tenant groups and mixes to complement existing market offers.

How can all of this still happen during Covid-19 and can we afford it?

The council’s commitment to supporting residents, businesses and communities throughout the pandemic has not and will not waiver as a result of this announcement.

Doing nothing is not an option. Shopping habits have changed: there is too much retail space in the town centre and we need to give people new reasons to come into our towns. People want to see arts, leisure, housing, culture, food, independent shops, craft and makers introduced. The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated and intensified the trends facing our high streets, and the need for intervention is greater than ever.

What about our other town and district centres?

Wigan Council has been consulting on a Strategic Regeneration Framework (SFR) for Leigh.

Similar to the Wigan SRF, the Leigh framework will set out a clear set of priorities for Leigh town centre, guiding council investment and enabling us to bid for further resources and investment from partners.

The local authority also understands the importance of local high-streets within communities and through The Deal for Business and the Business Booster Fund, many businesses on district high streets have been supported either financially or by providing advice, offering networking opportunities and other guidance.

Despite the pressures on council budgets, this support will continue.

The council’s #SupportLocal campaign also focuses on both the high street and new start-up businesses that are operating from home during lockdown.  The pandemic has made many people reassess their relationship with local places and the need to travel to city centres for work and shopping so there’s a real opportunity to build on this as we move out of restrictions.

The borough’s Our Town initiative has just relaunched, which will deliver improvements to all district centres through a range of environmental changes including cleaning, improvements to shop fronts and investment in public realm, along with support for local events.

How have you engaged people?

In 2018 Wigan Council spoke to more than 6,000 residents in 83 locations across the borough to find out what matters to them as part of the Big Listening Project. In total we received more than 10,000 ideas.

The future of our town centres was one of the top priorities identified through the consultation: town centres are important to our residents and they want to see them thrive.  The council’s corporate strategy – Deal 2030 – is based on the feedback received through the Big Listening Project, with ‘Vibrant town centres’ set as one of ten key objectives.

Residents told us that they want more leisure opportunities in the town centre that cater for a much wider audience, including families. They also expressed views over having more facilities to promote an evening economy, for example more bars/restaurants/cinema, escape rooms, ice rink. Lots of people referenced the need for a more “bespoke” offer, including an artisan market and independent shops, cafes and restaurants.  Frequently mentioned throughout the Big Listening Project was the idea of introducing more residential housing in the town centre as a way of keeping it alive both day and night.

Residents also told us they often choose to spend their disposable income outside of the borough for leisure as the offer is not strong enough here. Also, there was recognition that as many people work, the town centre 9-5 offer was not accessible for them.

In 2019 a separate survey exercise took place online and face to face in a vacant shop unit in the Galleries following the launch of the procurement process. The survey launched on 1st November 2019 and ended on 6th December 2019. A total of 710 responses were received. During this survey, which included open and closed questions, only 11 per cent of those asked were satisfied with the current offer in Wigan town centre.

These results reinforce the earlier comments gathered during the Big Listening Project – supporting the proposals for redevelopment.

As part of the pre-planning consultation in May 2021, a project website was set up together with a community information telephone line, and this has been widely advertised, together with a virtual exhibition room. The Council has also ensured that hard copies of the various information and documents could be supplied for anyone without internet access.

A report on community engagement has been submitted by Cityheart as part of the planning application.

How will information regarding the redevelopment be communicated?

We will continue to hold regular briefings for key stakeholders, including retailers, traders and staff throughout the redevelopment process. These will be scheduled at key points in the scheme to ensure access to the latest news and information. Residents and visitors will be communicated to via press releases, newsletters and Borough Life.

A number of planning consultation sessions have taken place, including a pre-application consultation giving the wider public the opportunity to comment on the proposals before they go to planning committee in Autumn.

We will also engage specifically with retailers as part of the consultation and the feedback we receive will inform the development of an application.

The dedicated website – will also be updated on a regular basis and you can send us any questions via the site.

Is the council disposing of the freehold of council owned land?

Under the current proposals the Council will not dispose of the freehold of any Council owned land or property. However, it must be recognised that the Council does not have the resources to be able to undertake a development of this magnitude without investment from the development partner, who will also have a desire to protect their investment.

Different elements of the scheme will require different funding strategies. Land interests may be used in order to raise the necessary funding, but ownership will ultimately revert back to the Council. This may differ slightly in relation to the residential elements of the scheme which may include open market sales but even then, these will likely be based on long leasehold interests with the Council retaining the freehold interest.

By working in partnership, the Council will be able to retain an element of control, ensure the future sustainability of the town centre and attract private funding to support this scheme.

Will there be a hotel on site?

Yes. Part of the plans do include a hotel. The Galleries25 team have met with a series of interested hotel brands who have all expressed a keen interest in being a part of the new development. Once these negotiations are complete we will be looking to make a formal announcement, this is likely to be at the end of the year.

Will the Galleries redevelopment be debated by Council?

The Council has not ruled out debate by the full Council on plans to redevelop of the town centre. However, it has been determined that it would be inappropriate for any such debate to take place while there is a live planning application due for consideration. This is because any such debate would inevitably touch on matters connected with the planning application, which may leave the Council at risk of legal challenge.

While debate at full Council has not been ruled out, it must be noted that under the Local Government Act 2000, decisions on matters such as regeneration relate to the Council’s executive functions and are therefore primarily matters for the Cabinet.

Ensuring people are able to have their say on significant developments, like the Galleries, is very important to the Council. In November 2021, a specially arranged planning committee will take place which will consider the Galleries planning application and any comments or objections received.

Is the Market Tavern / Thai Restaurant building part of the current proposals?

The building does not form part of the current development and there are no current plans to include the building in a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO).

The Council has received a planning application from the current owner of the building which is progressing via the normal planning process. This planning application involves repurposing the building.

The English planning system allows for someone to apply for planning permission on land that they do not own or control; the only requirement is that they serve notice on the actual owner.  The applicant in this case has done this, and the planning application includes a proposal to demolish the Market Tavern and redevelop this area.

Even if planning permission is granted however, a developer cannot actually carry out their development unless and until they have control of the land in question.  The developer does not own or control the Market Tavern, and so would not be in a position to demolish the building even if they had planning permission to do so.

Therefore the demolition phasing plan forming part of the application, has been updated to exclude the Market Tavern from the proposed first phase of demolition. However, since the planning application still proposes the redevelopment of the Market Tavern site, it is logical that the building be shown as potentially being demolished at a future point in time, if / when the developer gained control of it.

(updated 20th December 2022)