BOLTON Wanderers’ plans for a £100 million sports, education, housing and office development have been approved after years of negotiations.

The so-called Middlebrook Masterplan will see a new free sports academy for up to 500 pupils built next to the stadium, as well as 200 apartments, a 60-bed hotel and a wealth of offices and restaurants.

The new school is thought to be the first in England run by a football team outside of the Premier League, and already has 200 pupils ready to join its first year this September.

Under the plans approved by Bolton Council’s planning committee:

  • Bolton Arena will be upgraded with the inclusion of a full-size artificial football pitch, improve-ments to the running track, upgrade of the multi-sports facility and replacing the four existing floodlit pitches with seven new pitches
  • A sports building will be built next to Bolton Arena with sports halls, tennis courts, an indoor football pitch and admin facilities
  • A five-storey education building for a free sports academy will be built
  • The west stand of the Wanderers’ stadium will be expanded and re-constructed to provide more hospitality and administration facilities
  • A “grand arc” of buildings up to seven storeys tall will be built, including up to 200 apartments, restaurants, office floorspace, a hotel, retail and additional sports space across more than 27,000 sq metres by the north stand of the stadium

The planning meeting was told that the statue of Nat Lofthouse would not be moved, but that the area surrounding it would be “remodelled”.

Councillors expressed concern that major traffic improvements would be needed around the stadium, that the school building is suitable for children and that the office space would not take business away from Bolton town centre.

Cllr Linda Thomas, deputy leader of Bolton Council, said she was worried about the temporary accommodation, within the stadium, for the children who start school this September.

She added: “We would hope to see what this new school would look like very, very quickly.”

Cllr Bob Allen had “very serous concerns” that an allocated £50,000 would not be enough to improve the Beehive roundabout so it could cope with the extra traffic.

He said: “Officers do need to be aware that this is a critical issue and we can’t afford to be fobbed off by half-baked schemes regard-ing the road improvements. They need to be really good schemes.”