BOLTON is said to be on the way to becoming a “student town” after plans for two new blocks of student accommodation were given the go-ahead.

The blocks, with a total of 87 rooms, were approved by Bolton Council’s planning committee in two separate applications at its meeting.

The plans include a proposal to convert the historic former Mechanics Institute in Mawdsley Street, which was last used as a gym and has been empty for 10 years, It was built in 1868 and stands next to J2 nightclub in the Mawdsley Street conservation area.

Under the proposals, from Hurstwood Holdings, the building will be converted into six student flats, with 37 bedrooms and bathrooms and shared kitchen and living facilities, as well as two bedsits.

Stephen Ashworth, chairman of Hurstwood Holdings, told the planning committee that the development would prevent the building from deteriorating and said the exterior of the structure would not be altered.

He said: “There is a shortage of residential accommodation for students and, after some exhaustive marketing, we have decided that this is the best use of the building.”

A second application, submitted by Whitelionco Ltd, to build a six-storey building to house 48 students, was also approved.

The building will be on the site of Nevada Motors in White Lion Brow, just off Spa Road, which will now be demolished. The building will include a manager’s office, a bin store, laundry room, a large internal bike store, a gym for use by residents and access to an outside terrace.

The 48 bedrooms and en-suites will be arranged into 11 “clusters”, including communal areas, with kitchens and living rooms.

Cllr Bob Allen said: “We are becoming a student town and there is not much wrong with that.”

Olakunle Williams, vice-president of the students’ union, said better accommodation would bring more students to Bolton.

He added: “The amount of accommodation we have at the moment is not adequate for the number of students.”

In September, The Pack Horse, in Nelson Square, was re-opened as 100 luxury student flats.

Plans have been submitted by Bolton Council to convert the two closed bars next to the site — Coyote Chaos and Lounge 10 — into new flats and a coffee shop. They also include a new “courtyard” in the grounds and 25 student flats.