Farnworth is one step closer to getting a £25m government grant as town centre regenerations plans are given the green light.
The town has been chosen as one of only 50 areas across the country to go through to the second phase of the Future High Streets Fund, a multi-million pound pot of cash set up to make high streets fit for the future.
Bolton Council’s successful bid means that it will now receive a grant of up to £150,000 to help develop a full business case for the proposed investment programme.
This comes as the long-awaited Farnworth town centre masterplan was waved through at a cabinet meeting yesterday.
Farnworth and Kearsley First councillor Paul Sanders welcomed the news by thanking the previous Labour leadership and council’s growth and regeneration team for their “tireless” work.
He said: “It will take some time to dispel the negative association with town centre masterplans and Farnworthians, as we’ve had a number of masterplans over the last decade or so which did not come to fruition.
“Political pressure has brought about a political will and I would say that this masterplan will be the one.”
The local authority has now adopted the masterplan following a wide-scale consultation with residents.
It sets out objectives for the town centre including a new community and civil hub in the heart of Farnworth, improved public realm, redeveloping the market precinct and extending the leisure centre.
Initial terms have already been agreed with the current owner St Modwen to acquire the precinct.
A successful Future High Streets funding bid would help projects within the masterplan to be delivered.
Council leader Cllr David Greenhalgh was delighted Farnworth had been shortlisted by the government and described the masterplan as a “solid foundation” for the town.
He said: “This is brilliant news for Farnworth and work will now begin into building the business case for funding.
“We want to deliver the changes that people across the borough want to see and I believe that the Future High Street Fund bid will bring us one step closer to regenerating our town centres.
“The masterplan approved today gives us a solid foundation, a vision, and a strategy for what we want to achieve.”
Labour councillors Anna Marie-Watter and Akthar Zaman also welcomed the news.
Deputy Leader, Cllr Martyn Cox, said: “Getting our Farnworth bid through to the next round is a fantastic achievement against stiff competition from, we believe, nearly every other town in the country.
“We’re delighted that one of our bids has been successful. Our Bolton town centre masterplan has already secured significant private sector backing, and it is good news that the Farnworth funding bid has progressed but we are not relying on this bid alone.
“We will be cracking on with our strategy regardless of whether we are ultimately successful in securing the £25m we have bid for, from the fund.
“We are focussing on what we want to achieve for town centres across the borough and £16m has already been allocated to support the regeneration of Farnworth, Horwich, Little Lever and Westhoughton town centres.”
The maximum award under the Future High Street Fund is £25 million but most successful bids are expected to receive £10 to £15 million.
The council also lodged a bid for Bolton town centre but this did not get through to the next stage.
Prime Minister Theresa May said: “Our high streets lie at the heart of local communities – creating jobs, boosting the economy and helping small businesses thrive.
“But new technology and changes in the way we shop means they also face growing challenges, so I’m delighted over 50 towns will initially benefit from this scheme.”