The multi-million pound regeneration of Farnworth town centre has taken a significant step forward as Bolton Council revealed it is to buy the Market Precinct.
The authority has made the bold move after listening to residents – six months of community engagement took place in 2018 and a consultation was held earlier this year.
Initial terms have now been agreed with the current owner St Modwen to acquire the precinct.
The deal has not yet been finalised, but it is expected to be worth several million pounds and council officers are hoping to complete the acquisition as soon as possible.
The move to buy the precinct has been driven by the council’s ambitions to transform the town centre for future generations.
And the council announced last month that townships, principally Farnworth, will benefit from an additional £4m for their town centres.
This will add to the £12m cash boost to transform four district town centres, announced in January.
Ownership of 16 units on Brackley Street and the area between Brackley Street and King Street would transfer to the council.
This ambitious move is fundamental to support the transformation of Farnworth.
Bolton Council’s Deputy Leader and portfolio holder for regeneration Cllr Ebrahim Adia said the council had stepped in to buy the precinct to take control of a key part of the masterplan.
He said: “This ambitious move is fundamental to support the transformation of Farnworth.
“We are acutely aware that for a number of years the people of Farnworth have been frustrated that a scheme hasn’t been delivered.
“We will look to transform an area that is in real need of investment and it will act as a catalyst for the wider regeneration of the town.”
The council has also promised to make some changes to the draft town centre masterplan following the in-depth consultation.
More than 130 people attended six drop-in sessions, and 252 responded to a questionnaire earlier this year.
People supported improving the retail offer, redeveloping the Market Precinct, extending the leisure centre and plans for a new community and civic hub in the heart of the town centre.
However, most residents were against relocating the library or redeveloping the Home Bargains site.
As a result of that feedback, the council will change the draft proposals and will remove any reference to moving library in the masterplan.
Cllr Adia said: “This was a really important consultation because it will shape what we do for a considerable number of years.
“We have listened to what people want and we will be keeping the library where it is. We are also looking at alternative locations for a new community hub, possibly in the precinct.
“We had a really good response from residents and we will continue to engage and consult with people as plans emerge.”
Farnworth is also one of Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham’s Town Centre Challenge towns.
A final masterplan for the town centre will be produced for formal approval by the council this Summer.