Travellers have caused outrage after leaving a trail of wreckage behind them at a popular community venue.
Tough questions are now being asked of the authorities by furious Lowton residents after The Rose Centre on Hesketh Meadow Lane was left in an appalling state.
These images taken on Monday graphically show the wanton trail of devastation caused by the vandals, with both the outside and inside of the venue requiring a massive clean-up after caravans pitched up on the car park for around a week.
Conservative ward representative Coun Edward Houlton slammed the litany of destruction and both he and Wigan Council opposition leader Coun James Grundy are calling for the police to take more robust action against travellers in future.
Coun Grundy said: “A lot of people are going mad at the police and I think that is fair enough. Obviously residents are absolutely furious about this.
“We are doing everything we can to work with Rose Leisure to make sure the place is secure to prevent this reoccurring in the future.”
I want to know why the police didn’t do anything when they should have gone on there and just told them to get off the site. I’ve checked the law and it states that police can move travellers on if there are more than five or six caravans on private landCoun Edward Houlton
Coun Houlton said: “It’s just unbelievable. The bar has been smashed into, all the alcohol has been taken and literally every piece of glass in the main hall has been smashed. They’ve even damaged the lighting in the roof.
“I want to know why the police didn’t do anything when they should have gone on there and just told them to get off the site.
“This is the third or fourth time this has happened in Lowton and it is just not acceptable.”
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) have confirmed they are now investigating the break-in and the anti-social behaviour in the area and are urging anyone with information to get in touch.
The police also said the travellers left on Sunday morning without intervention from the council or officers.
A second group of travellers tried to enter the site later on Sunday but police established they had nothing to do with the break-in. They also moved on within 24 hours without the authorities getting involved.
The venue is now looking at introducing a height-restricted barrier similar to the one which has successfully prevented travellers congregating at Pennington Flash and bollards.
The travellers caused huge disruption to the centre, with functions and midweek dance classes all having to be scrapped due to the lack of car parking and the likelihood anyone going into the centre would face abuse and threats.
Junior football teams who use the civic fields also scrapped their sessions last weekend as security could not be guaranteed.
Staff from Wigan Council travelled to Lowton on Monday morning to help clear up the car park.
Assistant director for operations Paul Barton said: “Our cleansing team removed four van loads of rubbish left by the travellers.
“Our Greenspaces team also attended with a tractor and trailer to remove a large amount of tree cuttings.
“All the parking areas were mechanically swept of broken glass and rubbish.
“We also discovered approximately six street lights had been damaged and damage was caused to the electrical service connections.
“These have been made safe and will be repaired as soon as possible.”
Last week the town hall confirmed it was looking at changing its policy to make it tougher for travellers to loiter on council-owned land.
Coun Grundy is standing in the upcoming local elections. The full list of candidates for each ward will be released later this week.
Anyone with information about the damage to The Rose Centre or anti-social behaviour in the area should ring police on 0161 856 7301 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.