BUSINESSES in Bolton’s historic Churchgate are pleading for support — as the landmark thoroughfare turns into a “ghost street”.

Bolton Council spent £1 million upgrading the street in 2006 — laying down attractive paving and cobbles — but since then a number of firms have either closed down or relocated.

Parking wardens are putting off the few shoppers who do venture to that end of town, according to critics, while calls have also been made to restore Church-gate’s traditional markets.

But council chiefs say grants of up to £20,000 are available for new businesses — and they now hope to reinvent the street as Bolton’s “restaurant quarter”.

Cllr John Walsh, warden at Bolton Parish Church in Churchgate, said: “This part of the town is dying. It really is quite disgraceful that the area looks such a mess, when you consider how much time and money the council has spent on it.

“The council’s grant scheme is a good idea, but prospective businesses will be put off by Churchgate’s over-zealous parking regime.

“There used to be a theatre and cinema, among other things.

“It would be extremely helpful if the markets in the town square could be put in Churchgate, as this would give people more of an incentive to visit the street.”


Marie Walsh, owner of Ye Olde Pastie Shoppe, said: “A lot of money has been spent on revamping Churchgate and yet the street just looks worse and worse.

“Churchgate used to be such a beautiful part of town, but it has gone from being a thoroughfare to being an awful mess.

“When we had The Bolton News and other businesses across the road, we had a much better trade. But these businesses have not been replaced. As a result, we are having to reduce staff all the time. I hope more is done to get Churchgate back to where it was.”

A council spokesman said: “We recently launched a grant scheme which is aimed at attracting new retail and leisure businesses into Bolton town centre.

“Grants of up to £20,000 are available under the scheme to support businesses in opening in the town centre including Churchgate where we are encouraging restaurant use.

“We are also working with landowners and agents to try to persuade them to offer favourable terms and conditions where possible.

“We have invested significantly in the public realm in the area to create a pleasant environment for customers and workers in Churchgate and the grants scheme is there to attract occupiers to replace those who have left the area in recent years.”

In the past two years, the Originals clothes shop and newsagents Churchgate News have both closed — while The Bolton News also relocated to Wellsprings.

Cardwells estate agents has relocated, the Kiss nightclub has also be closed for a number of years, while “To Let” signs are up at the four-storey Stone Cross House office complex.

A soup kitchen has opened up in the Originals shop on Fridays — a move criticised by Mrs Walsh — but it is understood a new tenant has now been found for the premises.

Alan Brown, who set up soup kitchen Bolton Diggers, said the organisation was now looking for a new base in the town.

He said: “There have been a few negative comments, but it’s the same sort of comments from the same people.

“We are supposed to be a Christian country, and yet there are so many people who are quick to judge and stigmatise the sort of people who use our soup kitchen.”

PUBS in Churchgate are hoping Bolton Council’s scheme to attract more businesses to the historic street pays off.

They are also calling on the council to restore the thoroughfare’s traditional market.

Tony Dooley, manager of Ye Olde Man and Scythe, said: ”The street is dead. Churchgate used to have markets and was a thriving part of town. Over the years, it’s declined a great amount and it feels like nobody wants to come here.

“The markets need to be spread out like they are in Manchester and then maybe this will get people coming to Churchgate again.”

Phillippa Warburton, owner of The Brass Cat pub, said: “Churchgate is quieter than it used to be and, at weekends, we don’t get much trade until later on in the day. People who walk down Churchgate are either going to their car or going somewhere else.

“But I suppose because it’s not very central, you would expect it to be quiet.”

Salon manager Jenni Wells, of Churchgate Salon, is also hoping restaurants or cafes will be attracted to the street.

She said: “I think Churchgate is the prettiest part of the town centre, but I think we are lacking a nice little cafe. Something like that would draw people in.

“We are on the edge of town and, unless people are using a specific service, they are not really drawn in.

“I’ve worked in the town centre for 10 years and Bolton has changed a lot, but the council aren’t doing enough to help local businesses in the town centre — the rates are discouraging people.”

OPEN: The Swan, Ye Olde Man and Scythe, Everyday Loans, Adecco, Creative Camera, Talent Pool Recording Studios, Travel House, The Capitol, Farrell Heyworth, Ye Olde Pastie Shoppe, Prime Lettings, Booth’s Music, The Parallel Young People’s Health Centre, The Brass Cat, The Churchgate Salon, Tasty King’s Kebab

CLOSED OR RELOCATED: 14-18 Churchgate (used to be Kiss nightclub), Cardwells Estate Agents (relocated to 11 Institute Street, Bolton), PPMCR Ltd (Churchgate House), Berkeley St James Wealth Management, Churchgate News, Originals, The Bolton News (relocated to Wellsprings)