A study conducted by Drivers Jonas Deloitte has found that investment and development in Bolton town centre, particularly through the delivery of new public sector facilities, means that the town is weathering the recession well and is now a ‘star performer’ in the Greater Manchester region.
The success of Bolton town centre is highlighted in the Greater Manchester Town Centres study, which is being conducted on behalf of the Commission for the New Economy. The study recommends that towns in Greater Manchester develop their competitive advantages, in order to position themselves in the city region. The focus is on ensuring that town centres have the ‘essential ingredients’ that provide core services to local communities; a distinctive offer, which encourages visitors from outside district boundaries; and that town centres identify the potential for accelerated economic growth, through the delivery of new, employment –generating projects.
The study praised Bolton’s progress and performance in providing a core, distinctive and accelerated offer. In particular, in respect of accelerated economic growth, the study praised Bolton’s strategy of fostering a knowledge-based economy through investment in the university and its facilities, as well as the development of the Innovation Zone, which will both act as engines for future growth in the town. The study also praised other investment in public sector facilities, such as Bolton One and new infrastructure and transport links such as the new bus and railway interchange, all of which position Bolton as a star performer in Greater Manchester - well positioned to grow during the economic recovery.
Simon Bedford, partner at Drivers Jonas Deloitte commented: "Bolton is one of Greater Manchester's star performers. It has weathered the recession well. Investment in its university has been key, with new facilities and student accommodation being built in the town centre. The development of its Innovation Zone has also acted as an engine for further growth.
"One of the central recommendations of our study was the need for town centres to develop a comparative advantage, such as Bolton has done through fostering a knowledge based economy. As a result, the town is well positioned to grow during the next economic cycle."
Councillor John Byrne, Executive Member for Development and Regeneration commented: “We have ambitious plans for regenerating Bolton and attracting new developers and investors to the town and we were determined that these plans would not be affected by the economic downturn. We have focused on investing in infrastructure, such as the new railway interchange and facilities such as the Bolton One development which can be used by all the residents of Bolton. With these developments in place, we will be in prime position to deliver on our promise of creating 4,000 jobs and attracting £300m of new private and public sector investment into the town over the next 10 years.”
The 165-acre Innovation Zone is a mixed-use, leisure and knowledge-led development, forecast by the council to create 4,000 jobs and attract £300m of new private and public sector investment into the town over the next 10 years.
One of the core elements of the Innovation Zone is the Knowledge Campus, comprising the expansion of the University of Bolton and the co-location of Bolton Community College and Bolton Sixth Form College. The Learning and Skills Council gave the go-ahead, in March 2009, for three new college buildings, costing £90m in Bolton. Construction by BAM Construction both colleges is well advanced with the projects due for completion and in September this year.
Bolton One, a £31m health, leisure and research centre is also now on site. The project is shared by Bolton Council, NHS Bolton and the University of Bolton with the council contributing around £11.6m; the PCT has allocated £11.8m in financing for the development and the university £7.4m. Bolton One will include an eight-lane, 25-metre competition standard swimming pool with seating for 250 spectators; a fitness suite; aerobics studio and community gym; an urgent care, diagnostic and treatment centre and sports science laboratories and teaching facilities. The project is due for completion in early 2012.
The council is also investing around £6m in constructing a major new link road between Moor Lane and Trinity Street to assist delivery of the Town Centre Transport Strategy and open up access to development sites within the Innovation Zone.
Transport chiefs have agreed to fund part of a major £4m overhaul of passenger facilities at Bolton train station, on Trinity Street. The scheme is being managed by Network Rail as part of the Department for Transport's National Station Improvement Programme, and it has been developed with partners at Bolton Council, GMPTE and Northern Rail.