FIRMS will be given £5,000 to set up shop in Westhoughton’s Market Street — but charities and takeaways need not apply.

Bolton Council has contacted local estate agents to advertise its offer to businesses who move into one of the seven empty shops in the street.

The council only wants certain types of business to occupy the premises and said takeaways and charity shops, which are abundant on the street, will not be considered.

It is understood that at least two businesses have expressed an interest, including one considering relocating from Wigan.

Cllr Christopher Peacock, for Westhoughton North and Chew Moor, said the scheme would improve Westhoughton’s “vibrant shopping street”.

But Cllr David Wilkinson, a Liberal Democrat town councillor, said the £5,000 grants were an “insult”.

Cllr Peacock said: “We are looking at schemes to improve Westhoughton town centre and this is one.

“We are lucky that we have only a few empty shops. It is a shame that a couple of them are in prime locations.

“This scheme has been done in Bolton town centre and now we are rolling it out to Westhoughton.”

Among the premises the council wants to see occupied is the former Toymaster store on the corner of Lord Street, which has been empty since before Christmas.

The offer is open to businesses starting up and existing ones wishing to expand or relocate from another town.

Last October, Bolton Council approved plans for a scheme, offering grants of up to £20,000 to businesses to fill vacant retail units.

Cllr Wilkinson said: “This is an insult to businesses in Westhoughton and it came just days before a local election. Is that how desperate Labour are?”

Cllr Kevan Jones, for Westhoughton South, said: “I’m pleased we are looking at the scheme. We already have a great selection of shops, but any efforts to fill the few empty ones we have is to be welcomed.”