ANYONE prepared to wade through the 63 documents submitted with the Town Hall planning application will find only two that refer to the economic justification for creating a café and restaurant at the front of the building and knocking holes in the facade to make them ‘more visible’.

The information provided is both inadequate and misleading.

Bolton Council and its agents claim that these works are necessary to ensure the future viability of the town hall as a public building. Nothing could be further from the truth. The council is currently spending in excess of £10million creating modern office facilities so that it can accommodate all its workforce, currently spread around in other buildings, in the town hall. This will increase the number from approx 250 to around 800 and produce major savings and returns from the disposal of the surplus accommodation. These works will guarantee the future of our town hall both as the centre of our civic administration and as part of Bolton’s heritage. And in any case, its activities are supported out of our council tax not the returns generated by the functions within it.

What the council’s justification is really saying is that the loss-making Albert Halls need to be supported by a profitable café and restaurant and that the more ‘visible’ they are the more attractive they will be to potential operators and their customers. The figures used to support this argument are extremely suspect: spend over £2million refurbishing the Albert Halls, spend another £2-3million on the café and restaurant (£500,00 of which is on the French windows and terracing) and in return you will generate £250,000 per annum in rental towards the Albert Hall deficit.

Bolton Town Centre is struggling to attract any significant restaurant operators, particularly at the ‘high end’ and many have closed in recent years. The Market Place is currently investing £15 million in the same market and their units will be open before the town hall. To enable any of these operations to survive, at least initially, they will probably have to be subsidised (as will the town hall units). So how can the council possibly argue its highly speculative café and restaurant are essential to support the viability of the whole town hall when they are unlikely even to help with the Albert Hall deficit?

So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen, this is the council’s case for knocking holes in the front of our Grade II* listed town hall!

Do you think we are being misled?

Richard Shirres, Mark Head and Stuart Whittle

Bolton and District Civic Trust