BOLTON was left disappointed today after The Princess Royal cancelled her visit to the town.

Princess Anne was due to officially open Bolton’s £30 million health, leisure and research centre Bolton One.

She was also due to visit the Royal Bolton Hospital’s £20 million neonatal and maternity centre of excellence.

The hospital visit was cancelled at about 9.30am today when a mechanical failure with Princess Anne's aircraft meant it could not take off.

Shortly after 11am, Bolton Council chief executive Sean Harris told the assembled guests, including the Mayor of Bolton, Cllr Guy Harkin, that the whole visit had been cancelled.

Princess Anne had been unable to take off from RAF Brize Norton and the decision was taken not to risk further attempts.

Earlier, Heather Edwards, the Bolton NHS Foundation Trust's head of communications, said: “We are pleased the Princess Royal will still be visiting some of our facilities at Bolton One but all the hospital staff are very disappointed that she will not be coming on this occasion as they had been looking forward to it very much. We have been told she has promised to come back later this year.”

Princess Anne has visited Bolton several times over the years.

Her first visit was in October, 1969, when the then 19-year-old royal met workers from English Calico’s Union Mill.

The weather then was icy but spirits were high as crowds lined the roads all the way from Manchester Airport to the mill to catch a glimpse of the young princess.

About 100 off-duty workers who were chosen by ballot had the chance to meet the Princess and the crowd also included two Tokyo police officers who were learning about British policing methods on a three-month stay.

In 1978, she visited the borough again, opening the Royal Bolton Hospital’s maternity unit which bears her name — the Princess Anne Maternity Unit.

And in 2006, she opened the Bolton Technical Innovation Centre, a purpose-built innovation academy for young inventors in Minerva Road, Farnworth.

Her last visit was in July, 2010, when she toured Watson Steel, which was involved in the construction of the Olympic Park for the London Olympic Games.

Today the Princess Royal was going to be met by the Lord Lieutenant of Greater Manchester, Warren Smith, and introduced to local dignitaries, including the Mayor and Mayoress of Bolton, Guy and Colette Harkin, council leader Cllr Cliff Morris and vice-chancellor of Bolton University, Dr George Holmes.

She was also going to meet gold medal-winning cyclist Jason Kenny, who was due to show her the Hall of Fame — an area dedicated to his achievements.

Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group chairman, Dr Wirin Bhatiani, was then going to take Princess Anne into the NHS area of Bolton One and introduce her to staff who were instrumental in setting up the facility.

She would have been met by Dr Holmes, who was to escort her to the athlete development centre.

"Friends of the University” including former Bolton Wanderers player and Honorary Doctor of the University, Fabrice Muamba, had assembled this morning to meet her.

Before the event, Cllr Harkin said: “It’s a big event. She’s going to the hospital too where she opened the maternity unit. Out of the royals she’s the one we’ve seen most of.”