A CASH boost of £12m across four town centres has been approved in what has been described as a “hugely important” move by the council.

The money, which comes from the £100m set aside for the Bolton town centre masterplan, will benefit Farnworth, Horwich, Westhoughton and Little Lever.

Each township will need to create its own plan showing how it will attract private sector investment in their town centre before the council will make “targeted interventions”.

The funding has become available thanks to the speed at which investment in Bolton town centre has been delivered.

Councillors approved the plans at a cabinet meeting on Monday at which Labour councillor Nick Peel praised the local authority’s success in attracting “major investment” into Bolton town centre.

He said: “We’ve always been a council that believes in not standing by and making interventions where appropriate.”

Opposition leader David Greenhalgh welcomed the move, describing it as “hugely important”, together with Cllr Martyn Cox who said he was “thrilled” at the speed at which investment was moving.

However, Cllr Greenhalgh, who represents Bromley Cross, highlighted that areas which his fellow Conservative councillors represent will not benefit from the proposal.

He said: “We support the townships but equally there’s a danger moving forward that there will be a lot of areas of the town, particularly on our side of the town that will feel, ‘how about us?’”

The report lists a “retail hierarchy” which identifies Bolton town centre as an important sub-regional town centre within Greater Manchester, followed by Farnworth, Horwich and Westhoughton.

It states that, although it is considerably smaller, Little Lever fulfils a crucial role in that part of the borough.

The hierarchy, which comes from Bolton’s Core Strategy, continues with Astley Bridge, Breightmet, Chorley Old Road and Harwood.

Local centres, including Blackrod, Bromley Cross and Kearsley, would benefit from the council’s capital programme.

The Labour group were accused of buying votes in key target areas ahead of May’s local elections when the funding was announced last week.

Referring to comments by Liberal Democrat councillor David Wilkinson, Westhoughton South councillor Anna-Marie Watters, said this funding was about investment, not bribery.

She said: “This money means so much to these town centres because they do feel that sometimes they get left behind Bolton town centre.”

“Taking on board a couple of the points, I think it’s very clear that the large majority of people did welcome this investment in the town centre.

“It would be much better if some members of the town council who are also members of Bolton Council don’t look at it as bribery. This is about investing.”

Cllr Peel added: “It’s not us saying, ‘here you are, have a few quid because we want to be nice to you’.”

Town councils are expected to lead the way in developing each centre’s masterplan following Farnworth’s model in creating its own masterplan.

These masterplan proposals would be developed by a steering group, which includes councillors, and would be subject to a public consultation when complete.

Liberal Democrat leader Roger Hayes said: “I hope there’s going to be proper consultation with ward councillors and, where they exist, town councils because they are elected to know what goes on in their areas best.”