Bolton has been chosen to go through to the next round of a £1bn government fund to improve town centres.
The council, which also succeeded in putting Farnworth forward for the Future High Streets Fund last month, can now progress with its £25m bid for Bolton town centre. Both bids for the multi-million-pound pot of cash will go forward to the next stage of assessment.
The local authority will now receive a grant of up to £150,000 for each town centre to help develop a full business case for the proposed investment programme.
Deputy leader Martyn Cox said that the announcement is fantastic news for Bolton.
He said: “There is a real commitment from central government to revitalise our town centres. Coming on top of the billion pounds of investment in the town centre and the hugely successful food and drinks festival at the weekend, there is a real feeling that Bolton is turning a corner.”
Labour leader Linda Thomas said that any money “coming back” to Bolton is good news, referring to the £1bn the council has lost in spending power since 2011.
The ex-council leader put the success down to the £1.2bn town centre masterplan which was put in place under the previous administration. She said: “The reason we’ve got is because our plans for Bolton and Farnworth were so far progressed before the election, we had a tailor-made bid.”
Lib Dem leader Roger Hayes was also pleased that Bolton is in the shortlist, joining 99 other towns also competing for the pot which has now grown by £325m to reach the £1bn mark.
But he suggested that the move by central government is politically motivated. He said: “I’m sure that this has nothing to do with Bolton having two marginal constituencies.”
Council leader David Greenhalgh admitted that belonging to the same party as the government of the day is “naturally” beneficial to the borough.
The Conservative leader said it would be “foolish” if his Tory-run administration did not take advantage of the channels of communication with central government it has access to.
However, he said that this does not take away from the merit of Bolton’s bid. He said: “This is brilliant news for our town and work will now begin on building the business case for funding. As a council, we are committed to making Bolton town centre an ideal place to live, work, shop and visit. The £1.2bn masterplan is progressing well as we look to regenerate key areas of the town centre.”
UKIP leader Sean Hornby also welcomed the news. He said: “It’s got to be good even if it’s only aimed at one specific area in the town, it proves that this administration is on the right track if government feels strongly enough to invest.”