Traders in Wigan say the closure of a popular car park is the ‘final nail’ in the coffin of business owners in the once thriving market town.
Wigan Council has announced the closure of The Galleries car park in the town center due to anti-social behavior from Friday February 25.
According to local business owners, the decision to close the car park was met with ‘anger’ as traders face falling sales and uncertainty over their future following the major $190million redevelopment pounds which was lit last year.
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As part of new redevelopment plans, The Galleries shopping centre, home to Wigan Market for 30 years, will be demolished to make way for a 150-room, 464-unit hotel and a media center with a cinema, bowling alley 10 alley lanes and indoor mini-golf.
Much of downtown will be fenced off during construction, but the market will remain open.
Mike O’Connor runs a fashion and shoe stall in the market and says the impact the car park closure will have on business will be ‘devastating’.
He said: “There are a lot of children hanging around between 3.30pm and 6pm. They all come to Wigan, they throw fire extinguishers from the top of the car park, putting the public at risk.
“They’ve brought the closure forward now and we’re going to lose 600 parking spaces which will have a devastating effect on businesses, especially market traders and all the shops that remain here until March.
“There will be a lot less traffic, we are already told that our traffic has decreased by 70% And when this car park which is right next to the market disappears, the closest will be 300-400 meters away. many of our customers are retirees and mothers with prams and it’s a long way to go for them.
“A lot of business owners are very angry and morale is low, they feel like they’ve been suspended. We’ve been handed over to the developers and the board has turned their backs.
“The very businesses that have been here for two or three generations, which have generated millions of pounds in rent for them in the past, are now just shunned, it’s really sad.”
Tony Porter, who runs a games store at The Galleries, thinks closing the car park early isn’t the answer to stopping anti-social behavior in the area.
“I have no problem with children, my shop is primarily a game shop. Young people are expected to come and browse,” he said.
“However, I have seen children climbing on places they shouldn’t be climbing.
“They’re just bored. What they probably need is something a little more constructive to do.
“We are lucky to have Wigan Youth Zone, a business we have close by, but it’s not there all the time and not many kids go there because they say it feels like school .
“They just need something to occupy their minds, and the problem we have is that in an empty mall there are fewer people. So there’s more space for them to gather and do nonsense.”
Bob and Olive Ogden, who run a children’s clothing store in the market, say running the mall has been a “disgrace”.
Olive said: “The town is a total disgrace, the parking lot is closing this weekend and the shops are starting to close, we’ve got two more years here and we don’t know what they’re doing.
Bob continued: “It’s bad with the teenagers right now, they come in here at 4pm and the security guards have ten doors to watch.
“But they have reduced security, there is a security guard and there are eight gates to watch, they could just hire more staff or reopen the car park they sold to the NHS.
“It feels like they are pulling the rug out from under our feet.
“It’s just terrible what they’re doing, it’s an absolute mess.”
John Theaker, who runs a handbag store in the market, said the latest news could see him leave after 30 years in the market.
“It will affect us massively, especially with what is going to happen in the next few months.” He said.
“Closing the parking lot is the final nail in the coffin. There is no passing through, you can sit here for an hour and not see a person walk by, but the rents are still the same and they don’t offer us no compensation.
“We’re waiting to see what the new market will look like and it’s two years from now. How can we afford to stay here for two years?
“Any time now I’m ready to put in my resignation and step down, it’s so serious honestly.”
Sheila Bailey, who runs a women’s clothing store, believes the council used anti-social behavior as a reason to close the car park early.
She said: “I think that’s an excuse. They say they don’t have enough staff, but look at the revenue from the cars. At weekends it’s packed.
“How are we going to survive, I don’t know.”
Watch shop owner Jonathan Lamb said: “The market has been open for two years, but honestly I don’t think they’re going to last that long.
“There are other towns that were once in the shadow of Wigan like Chorley that are crawling now, they are booming.
“The council can’t see what’s in front of them.”
On Wednesday February 23, Wigan Council said: “The Galleries car park will be closed to the public from Friday February 25 due to security concerns relating to increased anti-social behavior on site.
“The Wigan Mall and Market will remain open as usual so please continue to support your local traders and retailers.
“Alternative city center car parks are available on our website here: www.wigan.gov.uk/carparking
“Parking is currently free in municipal car parks on weekends.
“The nearest car parks are Water Street Multi-Storey Car Park, Mona Street Car Park and Harrogate Street Car Park.”
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