A CASH boost aimed to transform town centres across the borough has been welcomed. But some have described this investment as an “afterthought” which may not go far enough to regenerate Bolton’s townships. JOSEPH TIMAN reports.

TOWN centres across the borough could be regenerated with a £12m pot announced by the council.

Farnworth, Horwich, Little Lever and Westhoughton could all benefit from the new fund.

The money would come from the £100m set aside for the Bolton town centre masterplan.

The council could now spend some of this money on district town centres too thanks to additional private sector investment in the masterplan.

While this funding will focus on the borough’s largest centres, the council says it will continue to invest in smaller centres, such as Kearsley and Blackrod, through its capital programme.

Council leader Linda Thomas said the proposed investment in these key centres underlines the commitment to regenerating town centres across the borough.

She said: “This investment will deliver long-term benefits for local communities right across the borough, which is an absolutely priority for us. We are making really good progress on Bolton town centre with the private sector, which frees up some of the investment we’ve set aside.

“We know that an overhaul is needed in local centres, and the issue of regeneration is a real sticking point for the communities. We have listened. This proposed investment will help to regenerate, reinvigorate and reshape town centres to reflect changed shopping habits and to meet the requirements of what people now want.”

The news has been welcomed by hyper-local parties in Farnworth and Horwich which have been campaigning for more investment in their areas.

Farnworth and Kearsley First councillor Paul Sanders said: “There are encouraging signs coming from Bolton Council. It indicates a shift to realise that we can’t just spend all the money in one town. We need money and lots of it.”

READ MORE: Labour councillors accused of 'buying votes' through £12m town centre investment

Meanwhile, Horwich town councillor Steven Chadwick said the announcement was “welcome progress” given that townships are usually left with “scraps”.

The Horwich First member said: “It’s very welcome because £12m is a lot of money. That’s a sizeable investment. What I will say is that this seems very much like an afterthought. It seems like there’s been a big backlash to the town centre masterplan in other parts of the borough.

“It’s welcome that they are listening for once. All people in Horwich want is a fair deal and when they see £100m going into Bolton town centre, it rustles a few feathers.”

But Little Lever and Darcy Lever councillor Sean Hornby said that £12m is not a lot of money when spread across four town centres.

The UKIP councillor welcomed the announcement but noted that Little Lever is a key area for Labour to win votes at the next election.

Town centres will be supported to produce a development strategy and masterplan in consultation with the local community.

Horwich North East councillor Kevin McKeon was keen to take this approach and mirror a model used by Farnworth to develop its own masterplan.

The Labour councillor said: “I’m delighted with the news. The Labour council has always been committed to regenerating all town centres within the borough and this initiative shows the Labour group is carrying out that promise.

“It’s pleasing that Horwich is benefiting from the money that Bolton Council borrowed to leverage some private investment.”

Each centre’s plan will need to be strong enough to attract private investment to support their redevelopment vision.

Deputy leader Ebrahim Adia said: “The level of funding given to individual town centres will depend on the overall content and quality of their strategy and masterplan.”

However, Westhoughton South councillor David Wilkinson said the multi-million pound pot amounts to “chicken feed” claiming that townships would have to “jump through hoops” to receive it.

The Liberal Democrat councillor said the need for private investment could be used as a “loop hole”, stating that Westhoughton needs investment in infrastructure instead.

He said: “Our problem is not actually attracting businesses. We have very few empty premises.”

Meanwhile, fellow Westhoughton councillor Zoë-Kirk Robinson welcomed the funding which she said her party has been calling for.

She said: "We are delighted that the Labour Group are now adopting Conservative policies to invest in other towns in the borough rather than only looking at Bolton. The Conservatives welcome increased funding in Westhoughton, funding that our town will benefit from immensely.

"We will, of course, look to participate fully in preparing the Westhoughton masterplan required for this funding; with a view to ensuring all parts of Westhoughton benefit equally. I have called for a Bolton-wide plan for housing and development, which Labour refused in October, but I hope this is an indication that they are finally listening to what the people need."

The report outlining these proposals is subject to approval at a cabinet meeting on Monday.