ON Bolton’s new Town Centre Framework, Bolton and District Civic Trust finds some areas of promise but with one major exception.

The intentions for regenerating the Trinity Quarter are welcomed.

The much-needed enhancement of the River Croal corridor is positive, but too vague and incidental.

The major concern must be Cheadle Square.

The starting potential for Cheadle Square and Moor Lane lies in its location at the back of, perhaps, the UK’s most outstanding town hall island site, wonderfully embraced by the Le Mans Crescent with its under-exploited archway to the North.

How Moor Lane is developed, and exploits that gateway, can be a make-or-break opportunity to trigger an upward spiral of investment in the town centre.

Crucially, the civic trust contends that Cheadle Square and Moor Lane is now the most critical site due to its potential to permanently boost the quality of Bolton’s town centre.

The centre needs to be far more attractive to businesses as well as prime retailers. But to realise that potential, it needs design excellence.

The developed site needs to well surpass so much of the other mediocrity evident around Greater Manchester.

In 2016, the civic trust was very clear in championing all the essential urban design principles appropriate for this site, especially its heritage.

These included principles embodying low-carbon, sustainable and high-quality urban design as well as a superb demonstration in master planning excellence.

Green infrastructure should be an integral element to this excellence. Our own integrated proposals received good feedback from urban design experts, both in the UK and Europe.

We note green infrastructure goes unmentioned in the Town Centre Framework being proposed.

We welcome, within the framework, recognition of the principle of substantially increasing homes within what has become a town centre "doughnut" of inhabitation.

However, the one place where this is grossly inappropriate is at the rear of the Crescent whose backdrop should instead be exploited for civic amenity and establishing excellence in urban design layout, as exemplified by the civic trust's proposals.

With respect to Cheadle Square, the Civic Trust is seriously concerned, as no doubt Bolton’s citizens will be, that Bolton Council has not really moved on from its mindset of two years ago.

This is despite the significant public expenditure on feasibility designs that have had to be countered by the forward thinking but gratis work of the Civic Trust.

We now call upon Bolton to enter into a genuine pubic consultation around the modelling of Cheadle Square and Moor Lane, without any "one option only" design on the table and certainly before any outline planning proposals are drawn up.

There does need to be proper public engagement at the strategic stage not tokenism — when matters have been settled behind closed doors.

Richard Shirres


Bolton and District Civic Trust