CIVIC Trust leaders have hit out at Bolton Council’s ‘scant regard to public engagement’ in creating a £1 billion masterplan for the town centre.

The Bolton and District Civic Trust says it is ‘deeply concerned’ by the plans, particularly in relation to Cheadle Square.

In 2016, the trust revealed its own vision for the area, which was based on principles including public open green space, activity space, sustainability and respect for civic buildings.

And it is now calling on the council to amend designs in the town centre framework revealed in September, which earmarks the land around Cheadle Square and the old Moor Lane bus station for housing and office blocks.

Richard Shirres, the trust’s chairman, said: “While the Civic Trust finds positive elements within the Town Centre Framework, it remains deeply concerned about Cheadle Square and the whole process of bringing this Framework forward as a ‘cut and dried’ strategic policy document.

“It only seems to confirm Bolton’s scant regard to public engagement.

“The positives are the recognition to increase housing within the town centre and for new office development, as well as some enhancement of the River Croal corridor, albeit poorly defined.

“But the Civic Trust’s serious concern must, for now, focus on Cheadle Square and the Moor Lane site. In 2015 and 2016, the Civic Trust, backed by public opinion, defended over-development of Cheadle Square and established best design principles to exploit the heritage of the civic centre.

“Despite high-calibre proposals developed by the Civic Trust last year and the real efforts made to engage everyone, at all levels, little has changed from 2015 including the disregard for green space and heritage.

“A better future for Bolton depends upon creating a resilient centre, embracing green infrastructure and low-carbon development and leading Greater Manchester in 21st century urban design excellence. What happens to Cheadle Square will decide that.”

Town hall chiefs have stressed that the masterplan constitutes ‘very early preliminary designs’.

A council spokesman said: “As custodians of some of Bolton’s listed buildings we fully understand our responsibilities around our heritage. The masterplan document sets out our ambitions for the town centre and we welcome views from interested parties on how best to take the redevelopment of the town forward. We must stress that the masterplan outlines proposals and very early preliminary designs.

“The vision for Cheadle Square would see the central historical axis from Le Mans Crescent retained and we would work closely with any developer to create a proposal that would be sympathetic to the civic centre, the setting and surroundings. When any official plans are submitted for any scheme we will consult with relevant organisations.”