FARNWORTH families could benefit from a multi-million pound scheme designed to improve the lives of children aged up to three.

It was revealed at tonight's Farnworth area forum meeting that the town's ward was one of five included in a Greater Manchester bid for the Fulfilling Lives: A Better Start scheme, a lottery grant programme.

Fifteen local authorities across the country are in the final stages of bidding for the grants, which are worth £165 million in total.

The three to five local authorities that are successful in their final bid will each receive £30 to £50 million over eight to 10 years.

The bid is to be made by the end of the month and a decision on whether or not Greater Manchester will receive funding will be made in June.

If the Greater Manchester bid is successful, Farnworth will receive one fifth of the £30 to £50 million of funding in December.

The money would go towards improving three areas of a child's development - social and emotional development, communication and language development and nutrition.

Speaking at the Farnworth area forum meeting, Jan Robinson, project manager for Greater Manchester's Better Start bid, said: "This initiative is about turning families' lives around and giving children the support they need."

Also discussed at the meeting was the masterplan for Farnworth Market, which is to be endorsed at the executive cabinet meeting on February 24.

Designs are being drawn up for a two-story development containing retail units on the ground floor and a new health centre on the second floor, which is to be created on the market site.

A planning application is due to be made in spring and, if it is successful, Bolton Council and regeneration experts St Modwen will start building work in December.

Cllr Noel Spencer was optimistic about the development going ahead. He said: "The main reason for the delay of the redevelopment has been the change of ownership.

"St Modwen has a proven track record of regeneration and we are confident they can regenerate the Brackley Street area.

"At last, it looks as though there will be some reinvestment."

At the meeting, residents also raised concerns about the lack of lighting in Bridgewater Street and the need for the resurfacing of Rawson Street.

The meeting took place at Trinity Church in Market Street.