CONTROVERSIAL plans to cut into the iconic facade of Bolton Town Hall could be scrapped after bosses revealed they were working on two alternative options for regenerating the historic building.

It is also understood that a special Bolton Labour group meeting has also been to discuss the town hall proposals — after worried councillors raised concerns about the cafe and restaurant scheme following a public backlash.

Bolton Council's original plan — to create a restaurant and cafe with outdoor seating areas at either side of the town hall steps — was met with widespread criticism from residents and heritage campaigners.

Councillors were initially set to vote on the revamp today — but this has now been deferred while alternative plans are put together.

Council leader Cllr Cliff Morris said: "I think there will now be up to three different options available for the committee to choose from and as I have always said, people need to wait and see what plans are put forward.

“Our consultants are currently in the process of putting more options together and these should be produced in the next two or three months.

“We are looking at all options and there are different ways that we have to look at that issue of the facade.”

Plans were submitted by the council in February which aimed to regenerate the town hall with improvements to the Albert Halls theatre, bar areas, toilets and access to the building.

The proposals also include an idea to create a new restaurant and cafe either side of the town hall steps, with large French windows formed by cutting away some of the stone facade of the Grade II listed building and extra steps built to form a terrace area.

This idea would also mean moving the fountains from their current position to allow the outdoor seating areas to be created.

Campaigners believe the alternative proposals could be the first step towards completely scrapping the original plan.

Bolton and District Civic Trust chairman Richard Shirres welcomed the council's decision to "reflect on its proposals" but said the group would keep up the pressure on councillors.

He added: "There are now eight heritage conservation bodies in opposition to the proposals. Only English Heritage are still supportive.

“The loss of Bolton’s Market Hall has created a legacy of deep public cynicism about local democracy.

“There is a real opportunity here for the council to respond to public and heritage submissions and draw back from its proposals — which would help restore faith in public participation and local democracy.”

Another critic of the original scheme, Cllr John Walsh, said that if alternative plans did not involve touching the stone facade then this would represent a “huge step forward”.

He added: “I will await with interest to see what these other proposals will involve.

“I think the fountains add to the style of the town hall and to move them would be regrettable.

“But the idea of damaging the facade of the town hall itself would be totally unacceptable and I will continue to oppose any plan that would do that.”

Cllr Morris said it was still his "key priority" to make the town hall “sustainable and accessible” for the people of Bolton.

He added: “This building can’t just be subsidised by the taxpayer, so we have to look at what we can use it for.

"It is also essential that we create access for people with disabilities. The current plan will not be the only option — people need to wait and see.”