BOLTON could soon have not one but two town centre cinemas after plans for a second one were announced by Bolton's other big shopping centre.
The owners of Crompton Place want to build a new 11-screen multiplex alongside a range of restaurants, cafes and bars.
The proposals come less than a month after rival shopping complex the Market Place was given the go-ahead to spend £15 million on a nine-screen cinema plus eateries by demolishing parts of its car park.
Santander, which owns Crompton Place, has applied to build a 1,300-seat cinema, with the capability to show 3D movies.
Malcolm Angus, manager of Crompton Place, said the plans were very exciting news for Bolton and said “a considerable sum” would be spent transforming the centre.
He said: “We have got a redundant space on the first floor where TK Maxx used to be. The space has been vacant since 2007.
“It’s going to be tough, with the Market Place plans, but it’s a plan we’ve had on the back-burner for quite some time, and if it’s given the green light from the council and landlords we can hopefully drive it forward.
“What Bolton is gravely lacking is this night-time economy — rather than a pub or club, we’re missing out in comparison to Wigan or Bury in that we don’t have restaurants like Nandos plus a cinema.
“Hopefully, that is something we can bring to boost the town centre and stop people leaving at 5.30pm.”
Under the plans submitted to Bolton Council the former TK Maxx unit, the top floor of New Look and the former Games Workshop will be turned into the cinema, suitable for 3D movies, plus a restaurant.
On the ground floor nine retail units — including clothes shop Miss Cute, the Card and Party Centre, Pound Empire, Crystal Nails, Chinese remedy store Dr and Herb and Midas Jeweller — will be changed from shops into four diners.
All the stores are currently on short-term leases which will be ended if plans are given the go-ahead.
Crompton Place’s underground car park currently has 240 spaces, and there are no plans to extend it.
Meanwhile, questions have been raised by the town’s leaders about whether Bolton can sustain two cinemas in the town centres, as well as the Vue Cinema at Middlebrook and Cineworld at The Valley, in Eagley Brook Way.
An application to change the designated use from retail to leisure could also pave the way for other attractions, such as a bowling alley or a lasertag complex.
When dealing with the bid from Crompton Place, officers and councillors cannot, under planning regulations, refuse an application on the basis of competition, meaning that the current Market Place plans will not prevent the application going through.
Instead, they will have to weigh up “material planning considerations”, which covers issues such as whether there is enough parking, the design and appearance of the planned build and the impact on highway safety.
Cllr Cliff Morris, leader of Bolton Council, said: “It is significant that the private sector has again identified Bolton town centre as a place where it would like to invest, and this application will now go through the planning process.
“However, we made it clear to the applicants some time ago that the council was committing its support to the Market Place scheme, which includes the provision of the nine-screen cinema development and associated restaurants.
“We will be meeting the applicant again soon on the basis of encouraging them to work with the council in identifying possible alternative leisure uses for Crompton Place.”