Building on Success: Wigan

Wigan is a borough of Greater Manchester which is made up of proud towns, historic villages and a wealth of green spaces; it’s Greater Manchester’s greenest borough. As the second largest borough in Greater Manchester, its growth plans are in line with the region’s overarching strategic vision. Previously one of the North West’s premier coal mining towns, with a vibrant cotton and textile industry, Wigan is an important regional centre for businesses, culture and sport across Greater Manchester.

Home to around 330,000 people and thriving service-based, manufacturing, and textile production industries, Wigan benefits from a diverse economy providing good employment opportunities and connectivity.

Now, Wigan is ready to enter a new era as it works to diversify. Wigan recognises that the role of towns is changing, with more demand for people to live and work in the centre and a rise in demand for mixed-use, diverse shopping and leisure offers. Its economic vision is to build on its reputation for enterprise to become a magnet for business in all sectors and create an ecosystem where collaborations can help all sectors flourish. It hopes to maximise its connectivity to major UK cities like London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool to become a landmark destination to live, work and invest. However, Wigan also hopes to revitalise its heritage and environmental assets, connecting them to a modern town centre and positioning Wigan as a highly desirable place to live outside of Manchester City Centre.

Here are some of the key projects driving transformative change in Wigan:

Wigan Town Centre redevelopment - The Galleries Redevelopment

As part of Wigan’s commitment to diversifying its town centre offering, it is redeveloping The Galleries to create a vibrant new commercial, retail, leisure and residential destination. The transformative £135 million will draw in more visitors to the town centre, attract leading businesses and provide in-demand town centre residencies.

Wigan Council is working with Strategic Development Partner CityHeart to regenerate the 8-acre site and repurpose surplus retail space. The redevelopment will include; a six-screen cinema, music and e-sports venue, 10-lane bowling alley, indoor mini golf, food and drinks venues, evening entertainment space, a hotel and a new market hall. It will also include 464 residential units, offering a different lifestyle offer for Wigan and a new attractive public realm and events square to bring the development together.

As a traditional market town, the redevelopment of Wigan market will be hugely important to local traders and businesses. It will become part of a diversified new market hall offer, including a food hall, cafe, co-working and workshop space, and winter gardens and present the opportunity to have an outdoor offer in front of the new market hall.

The new development has been designed to environmentally friendly standards with ground source heat pumps and photovoltaic units saving 1,530 tonnes of carbon a year. It will also feature EV charging infrastructure and cycle storage units to support sustainable travel. Also, the scheme is protecting Wigan’s heritage and ensures that no listed buildings will be demolished as part of the development.

Civic Centre Redevelopment

Another major redevelopment in Wigan is plans to transform its Civic Centre in a joint venture between Wigan Council and Captial&Centric. The stand-out brutalist building was built in 1970, and the council hopes to preserve the building's heritage and design as it enters a new chapter, serving the town's long-term vision. The former council office will now provide a mixed-use space for businesses of all sizes; including incubator hubs for startups and workspaces for larger businesses. While some spaces will have individual entrances, they can all benefit from shared meeting rooms, co-working spaces and amenities. As it’s in the town centre, employees will benefit from local shops, cafes and bars.

The refurbishment will not only keep as much of the building’s brutalist design as possible but it will ensure it’s sustainable. The plans include a roof garden and extra planting, cycle storage and EV charging points.

Eckersley Mill

Continuing to preserve its history, three former cotton mills are planned to be redeveloped in Wigan with help from Heaton Group. The Eckersley Mill complex could see over 800 apartments, a 120-bedroom hotel, offices, a food hall, restaurants and a gym. The 17-acre scheme is set for multimillion-pound investment will create a new destination in Wigan, that both residents and visitors can enjoy. The Council’s development partners, Wigan-based Heaton Group say the result will be a thoughtfully designed complex that caters to the needs of the 21st century.

Haigh Hall

Wigan Council is also working to repair and restore Haigh Hall, one of the region’s most significant landmarks. Haigh Hall is well-regarded for its impressive architecture, vast grounds and ancient woodland. Now, the plan is to transform the hall to give residents of Greater Manchester and beyond an insight into Wigan’s rich history and heritage while providing a space to relax and enjoy the beauty of the hall and its grounds.

Haigh Hall is set to become a hub for Wigan’s arts, culture, heritage and environment. It will feature aworld-class café and events space for weddings and celebrations. Spaces on the upper floors will be dedicated to showcasing art and providing space for children’s creativity and education. Plus, a roof terrace will invite visitors to learn more about astronomy.

Leigh Town Centre Regeneration

As the second largest town in Wigan, and one with a rich history, Leigh is full of many exciting regeneration and growth opportunities. In a strategic location between Manchester and Liverpool, close to an easily accessible motorway network, Leigh presents an exciting proposition for businesses, residents and investors. In 2023 Leigh played host to the UEFA Women’s EUROs, with fans from across the world descending on Leigh, putting a spotlight on this up-and-coming town.

Wigan Council has ambitious plans for Leigh securing £32m through a combination of Level Up and Towns funding to deliver an exciting programme of town centre regeneration, which includes transforming the indoor market, improvements to the public realm and high street.

The funding will also support Wigan Council’s strategic framework for Leigh Town Centre which defines the vision for development over the next 10 years, creating a sustainable, thriving town centre which builds on recent successes. Leigh town centre is ready to diversify and create a mixed-use space to eat, drink, play, work, engage in cultural activities and enjoy local shops.

The vision for Leigh will include celebrating historic buildings and canal networks while enhancing the green environment and sustainable development while maximising the green infrastructure that surrounds it. It will create quality business space and opportunities to support local businesses and strengthen trading links. The framework will also deliver a range of good quality homes, which are more affordable than in the regional centre, to meet all needs and improve connectivity including walking, active travel and public transport; making Leigh a more desirable place to live.

Levelling up Ashton Town Centre

Wigan Council have secured £6.6m from the Government to enhance Ashton-in-Makerfield town centre by supporting new and existing businesses, improving connectivity and active travel routes as well as creating vital community space.

The redevelopment includes improvements to the historic market site, bringing it back into use for a variety of events and a grant fund towards improvements to shop fronts and business premises. There will also be funding to make streets more attractive, greener and safer for walking and cycling as well as arts trails and improved lighting.

These ambitious plans will enhance the town centre's offer and environment, support existing businesses and create new opportunities that will drive growth.

To learn more about growth opportunities in Wigan, visit the Manchester Stand at MIPIM 2024 for networking opportunities and stand sessions or visit www.wearewigan.org