Leigh Neighbours is a community project based in the Wigan Borough ward of Leigh West which aims, over the course of ten years, to bring about sustainable improvements in an area affected by issues relating to unemployment, deprivation, crime, housing and social cohesion.
Launched in 2012, Leigh Neighbours is one of 150 Big Local projects in England administered by the charity Local Trust and funded by an award of £1 million administered by The Big Lottery – which has since been renamed The National Lottery Community Fund.
Over the course of two years (2010-2012), we invited local residents, businesses and community organisations to express their views on how they thought this investment should be spent in order to achieve the greatest benefit to the Leigh Neighbours area.
Following this public consultation, we published the Leigh Neighbours Big Local project plan, which reflects the priorities of local people, and outlines how we aim to go about achieving these goals in partnership with the community.
In 2018, we revisited our project plan and, after carrying out additional consultation, produced an updated Community Plan for 2018-2021 which builds on the success of our initial programme of activities.
If you’d like to find out more about the kinds of projects Leigh Neighbours has been involved in, you can read our latest Annual Report here.
The Leigh Neighbours project area is based in the Wigan Borough ward of Leigh West, and encompasses the civic centre of the town, together with some retail, education and business premises. The project area is predominantly made up of Victorian terraced properties, some back-to-back, housing around 3,500 local residents; and is bound by Kirkhall Lane, Atherleigh Way, Twist Lane and King Street/ Market Street/ Leigh Road.
The Leigh Neighbours Project Board is a legal entity, made up of residents from the local area and others who work in our project area, for instance in our schools and other public sector organisations.
Board members have come together on a voluntary basis to lead and manage the delivery of a range of projects aimed at addressing the key priorities identified by local people.
Our board members reflect the community and come from all walks of life. In fact they’re all very different! But they do share in common a passion for their community, a determination to represent local interests and a commitment to bringing about change for the better.
MEET THE BOARD
Susan Gredecki, Chair
“When I first came to live here 40 years ago, the area was a popular place to live. Sadly, that’s no longer the case. Many houses are now owned by private landlords who rent out sub-standard properties. I joined the project to work with people who are trying to regenerate the area by finding a way to renovate the houses and bring them back into occupied ownership. I’m proud of the impact that the Leigh Neighbours project has made in the community over the past few years, bringing people together and investing in grass-roots initiatives which matter to people – whether that’s social activities which bring people together, arts and crafts workshops, apprenticeship schemes, environmental projects or ideas designed to tackle anti-social behaviour. We’re really keen to hear your ideas because Leigh Neighbours can only be a success if the community is behind us.”
Jan Eckersley, Vice Chair
“As a mum, I know just how important it is to invest in our kids’ futures. We need to find ways to channel our young peoples’ talents, provide positive role models, and create exciting opportunities for their growth and personal development. That’s why I got involved in Leigh Neighbours, so I could help make a positive difference for their future. I’m also passionate about recycling, so it’s really important to me that any projects we embark on, whether environmental ones such as Incredible Edible or educational projects such as crafts for children, features some element of upcycling!”
Dawn Hurst, Head Teacher, Leigh Central Primary School
“I’ve lived and taught in Leigh for over ten years and I am now in the privileged position of being Headteacher at Leigh Central Primary School . I joined the Leigh Neighbours Project Board as I am passionate about offering the best life chances and opportunities I can to the children who attend our school. I believe that the local community plays a vital part in this and by working with the project to improve Leigh, our children will be able to succeed in the future.”
“I have lived in Leigh all my life and I’ve seen over the years the area become more and more neglected. So, when we were awarded the Lottery money, I recognised it was a fabulous opportunity and immediately signed up to get involved. One way in which we’re investing the money is to generate improvements in the condition of local housing, and we’re already making progress in this area. I’ve also become involved in arranging apprenticeship schemes, giving hope to young people who may not otherwise get an opportunity. Change isn’t going to happen overnight and the area will take time to recover – but I’m a great believer in the importance of teamwork because together everyone achieves more.”
“During the past 30 years, I’ve seen this area of Leigh become depressed and watched the effect this has had on local people. I’m very green-fingered so I decided to get involved in the Leigh Neighbours Project to help improve the area by making it greener and cleaner, so that residents can start to feel genuine pride in their community once again. Friends describe me as a grafter, and I’ve been fortunate to have worked all my life. It’s tragic that some people nowadays find it so hard to get their foot on the ladder, especially young people. One of our priorities is to support people with training and employment opportunities, to find ways of giving people hope and a greater sense of purpose.”
Helen Ahmed, Head Teacher, Sacred Heart RC Primary School
“I’m the headteacher at Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School, which lies within the Leigh Neighbours project area. I agreed to get involved with the charity because I wanted to support the other members in ‘making a difference’ in the area. Over the past 5 years the children at our school have enjoyed attending the hanging basket workshops, where they plant baskets to put around our school to make it bright and cheerful. The children and members of their families also enjoy the bike workshops which ensure their bikes are in good working order. Leigh Neighbours works alongside members of the local community on many worthwhile causes in the neighbourhood. I am proud to be a member of Leigh Neighbours and know we do make a difference to the lives of local people.”
“I’ve lived in the Leigh area all my life – over 80 years. I also worked in the area and I’ve been involved with the school and parish of Sacred Heart so I know a great many people in the Leigh Neighbours area. That’s why it is so important to me that we continue to build local community spirit. I’m keen for people – both young and old – to get involved with local events and get access to the services they need.”
“Wigan ‘born and bred’, I’m a mum of 2 daughters and nanna to 4 grandchildren. I started working at Citizens Advice in 2004, rising through the ranks to Operations Manager. I am responsible for ensuring that the company’s advice and information services are effectively and efficiently delivered to high standards of quality and client care in locations across the borough. I am very much a people person with a hands on approach. I wanted to get involved with Leigh Neighbours because I am aware of the problems that clients from the area talk to us about, and I felt being involved would give us further insight into these issues. In my spare time, I have an avid interest in music with a diverse music collection and have attended many concerts and musical events.”
“Because I am a landscape gardener, I often take before & after photos to see the improvements we have made to a piece of land. I can relate this to the work we do within the Leigh Neighbours project area. It is very satisfying to me to look back at our successes with the many varied and diverse projects we have been involved with, particularly as a local resident. I am always on the lookout to see where we can make a difference within our community in the future, it is important to me that we invest whatever spare time we have to achieve this.”
“I have lived in this local area for 21 years. As a resident, parishioner at a local church, someone who works in the area and most importantly a parent with a child at a local school in the area, I want to help make the area a better place to live, work and play and keep it sustainable. Over the years the area has gone into decline. When I moved to the area, it was an area that had so much going for it and over the years this has sadly declined in so many ways. I have seen the great work that Leigh Neighbours has and is continuing to do and I want to be a part of this legacy, I believe that we need to all work together and make the area a great neighborhood, somewhere to be proud of, rather than seeing and hearing all the negative comments. We can all do our bit and this is the reason behind me joining the group. I want my children to be proud of the area they live in and my neighbours to feel safe and happy in their community.”
Deborah Catchatoor, Head Teacher, Leigh St Mary’s CE Primary School
“As Head Teacher at one of the four primary schools based in the Leigh Neighbours project area, I am heavily invested in working with partners for the greater good of our children. Leigh Neighbours provides a platform that gives children in our area opportunities for growth, raising their aspirations, developing their skills and building their confidence and self-esteem. The project has already generated significant outcomes, so much so that I decided to get involved as a board member because I saw the potential for even better outcomes for our children.”
Cllr Dane Anderton, Wigan Council
“As one of the youngest Councillors in the borough, I am proud to represent the Leigh West Ward and be able to work with a range of inspiring community groups. I was born and raised locally, and this is why I want to see our area do well for future generations. To achieve this I invest my time with organisations that make a difference for example; being a School Governor at Newton Westpark Primary School, Trustee Director of Citizens Advise for Wigan and Leigh and now working on the board of Leigh Neighbours Project plus many more in our ward and Town. Therefore, I see one of my roles as supporting and linking community groups and organisations together so they get the right resources to help them achieve maximum impact in what they do. All residents have a right to start well in life, live well, have aspirations with equal opportunity and feel safe in their area. By working together we can achieve more for our area!”
Lord Peter Smith, Wigan Council
The longest serving council leader in Greater Manchester, Lord Smith started his career in local government when he was elected as a Labour Party ward member for Leigh West in 1978. As well as Leader of Wigan Council, other appointments include serving as chair of the North West Regional Assembly and vice president of the Local Government Association. In 1999, he was made Lord Smith of Leigh in recognition of his work in local government. In 2018, he stepped down as Leader of Wigan Council after 27 years in post and continues to serve as a councillor.
Cllr Susan Greensmith, Wigan Council
“I’m immensely proud to have been a local councillor for Leigh West since 2009 and the Mayor of Wigan Borough in 2018/19. I was born and raised in Leigh, and I’ve always been actively involved in the community. I’m currently a governor at Sacred Heart RC Primary School, and I’m also a lay person at St Peter’s Church where I deliver Holy Communion. Working for the benefit of young people and families is a particular passion of mine. I run a ‘messy church’ for the community from St Peter’s school hall, which allows young families to come together and take part in fun, educational activities. I’m delighted to be working with my fellow members on the Leigh Neighbours board in helping to improve the quality of life for people in our local neighbourhood.”
A busy mum who loves her job and is a passionate community volunteer, Michelle has since 2018 also found the time to become a Board Member for Leigh Neighbours! Together with her colleagues on the Board, Michelle plays a part in helping to decide where the Lottery funding should be invested for the greatest strategic benefit for the whole community.
Michelle hosts Leigh Neighbours’ many craft activities and the holiday craft club, and is keen on working on projects which help to raise the aspirations of young people, whilst building confidence and developing skills.
Carol joined the Board of Leigh Neighbours in 2019 after spending years supporting the project as a volunteer helping out a the hanging basket workshops. She says: “We’ve all got something to give, whether that’s volunteering with an organised group or simply doing something on our own. Hosting community events or fundraisers is one way of going about it, but there’s many ways we can contribute tot he community from checking on an elderly neighbours to picking up litter in your street, It’s all about making a difference, and every little effort adds up.”