Crompton Place shopping centre has been bought by Bolton Council for nearly £15 million as it looks to shape the future of the town.
Chiefs have completed a £14.8 million deal to acquire the town centre building from Santander, in order to “take control” of a key part of the council’s £1 billion town centre masterplan — before reselling it.
The cabinet gave approval for the purchase in the middle of last month and finalised it after undertaking “extensive due diligence” checks.
The revamp of the centre, which does not include Marks and Spencer or the former New Look site, will involve a radical demolition and rebuilding of the prime site.
A planning application is expected to be put forward by summer next year, following consultation, and chiefs hope the project will then be completed within five years.
Tower FM understands that the new centre will include no more than 30 per cent retail space but will also include office, residential and leisure units.
Bolton Council leader Linda Thomas hailed the deal as an opportunity for “transformational change”.
She said: “The purchase of Crompton Place is fundamental to support the regeneration and transformation of our town centre.
“It is at the heart of our town’s civic and retail core and this deal means we now have control of a major strategic site that is critical to delivering the Town Centre Masterplan.
“We will now be focusing on ways to regenerate the area for the long-term benefit of the town centre and our residents across the borough.
“We have carried out extensive due diligence checks before acquiring the centre and these have confirmed that the purchase price reflects current market conditions and represents fair market value.”
Crompton Place is central to the council’s Town Centre Masterplan, together with Trinity Quarter, Cheadle Square, Church Wharf and Croal Valley.
The £1 billion blueprint, funded via a low-interest loan, is expected to create 7,400 new jobs and an extra £412 million of economic activity.
Cllr Thomas said that Bolton was “following the example of many other local authorities across the country that have also invested in their local shopping centres to deliver regeneration schemes”.
And she added: “There will be no changes in the day-to-day operation and running of the shopping centre in the immediate future, to ensure it continues to operate smoothly for tenants and shoppers.”
Tony Oakman, chief executive at Bolton Council, said councillors had been the driving force behind the purchase.
He said: “They are the ones that have taken the strategic direction of travel. Above all it’s about turning the town centre back into human places – places where people can congregate, where people live, that’s quite key.”
And Mr Oakman added the council wanted to continue to “grow the number of people in the town” of different ages and backgrounds.
He wants people to “take advantage” of the new museum, the Octagon Theatre, the Market Place, as well as events such as Ironman and Bolton Food Festival.
The town hall boss added: “It will never be the retail place it used to be, but it will be a more human space to work, live and spend leisure time.
Gerry Brough, the council’s interim director of place, said it was important the authority took the site into its own hands.
He said: “It was a case of we either buy it or it goes to someone else who, potentially, we know nothing about – or they don’t sell it and it gradually degrades.
“The council has taken the positive move to take control of that centre and be in charge of that development.”
He added: “The development will be 100 per cent new buildings – the existing buildings will be selectively replaced with new buildings.
“It’s not just replacing what’s there already, it’s got to be a different thought process – more innovative in terms of what we put in there .
“If you want to create a different space you can’t be restricted by the existing.”
And Mr Brough said that the big retailers such as Marks and Spencer and Primark were more likely to stay in a place if they were “part of a plan” that included a “fantastic new development”.
He added: “The alternative was to let someone else by the shopping centre. It’s about trying it get control of our shopping centre rather than being dependent on others.
“It’s a huge and complex development to regenerate the town centre. People can’t expect it to be done overnight, there has to be some realism that it’s going to be a project that goes on over a number of years.”