A £1.25m package of measures to support businesses across the borough has been unveiled, including free weekday parking in Bolton town centre.
All district town centres and Bolton town centre will benefit from the fund, as Bolton Council backs businesses re-opening following the easing of lockdown restrictions.
Shoppers visiting Bolton town centre could soon park for up to two hours free of charge, on weekdays, if the report is approved.
The offer would be available on-street in pay and display bays, at Bolton Market’s Ashburner Street car park, and Octagon, Topp Way and Deane Road NCP multi storey car parks. Parking is already free in district centres.
Proposals which will benefit all town centre include new social distancing highways signage and installing contactless hand sanitising stations in Bolton town centre and Farnworth, Horwich, Little Lever and Westhoughton high streets.
Town Centre Information Officers have already started work in Bolton town centre and the district centres to help local businesses and their customers, and a marketing campaign to back Bolton businesses to reopen safely is also being drawn up.
The council was awarded £253K from the government’s Reopening High Streets Safely Fund and is also looking to divert £1m from a budget which was set aside for grants for new businesses expanding to Bolton.
The authority also plans to review relaxing conditions to allow outdoor seating in areas outside bars, restaurants and cafes, and is looking at how to make streets and roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists to help with social distancing.
The council has already widened footpaths on Newport Street, and Knowsley Street and work on Blackhorse Street is also set to take place.
The announcement comes after extensive conversations with local businesses.
Bolton Council Deputy Leader, Cllr Martyn Cox, said: “We have been in regular contact with local businesses throughout lockdown and we have listened carefully.
“These initiatives are a direct response to what these business owners have told us they need.
“Our shops, our high streets, our independents all need your support more than ever right now – so please support them.
“Coronavirus has had a huge impact on our high streets and we want to do everything we can to support local enterprise at this challenging time.”
Subject to approval at the Deputy Leader’s portfolio meeting on June 29, the free parking offer will be in place in NCP multi-storey car parks within a week.
It will be implemented in a few weeks’ time at Ashburner Street and on street, once pay and display machines have been reconfigured.
It is anticipated that the free parking offer on weekdays will be in place until November.
The all-day offer of free parking at all town centre multi-storey car parks at weekends and Bank Holidays will also remain in place.
Bolton Council Leader, Cllr David Greenhalgh, added: “We will be with our partners in the local business community every step of the way offering all the help we can.
“No-one is pretending this economic recovery will be easy, but as a council we need to be introducing proactive measures as well as words of support, and this considerable package of free car parking will, we believe, be one in a number of initiatives that we hope will help.
“Of course, the reopening of the retail sector must be done safely, and work has already gone into making Bolton town centre safe with social distancing and other appropriate safety precautions in place. We want to replicate this in our district centres.
“I urge residents, if you are able to do so, to come out, stay safe and support our local Bolton businesses. Back our shops, back your community, back local business, back your local high street, and back our borough.”
Ahead of shops reopening, Bolton Council has also sent out more than 2,000 information packs to businesses.
The authority has processed thousands of claims from local businesses seeking government support grants during the pandemic - more than 5,000 businesses have been helped and £58m has been awarded.
Council staff were redeployed from other departments to ensure claims were processed quickly, helping local businesses receive tens of millions of pounds in financial assistance.
The council has also applied the government’s 100% business rates relief schemes for leisure, retail, hospitality and childcare in the 2020/21 financial year.
Business Bolton is the council’s business support service and has been offering advice to local firms since the start of the coronavirus crisis.
Visit BusinessBolton.org for more information.