BOLTON Council can now issue compulsory purchase orders to acquire land for the Church Wharf development in Bolton town centre.

At least nine businesses will be affected by the town centre scheme which could see 320 homes built alongside a new park, hotel and a bridge. The £150m project is the first phase of Bolton Council’s £1bn masterplan to regenerate the town centre.

The council is in negotiation with the businesses affected by the planned development, but if the negotiations prove unsuccessful, the council can now resort to a compulsory purchase order (CPO).

The council authorised the use of CPOs at its cabinet meeting last week, although it says it will only do so after all other options have been exhausted. It means it could obtain the land without the consent of the owner but compensate the businesses involved.

A council report states that some owner expectations are “unrealistic” and may not be resolved by private treaty negotiations.

Keppie Massie, the council’s commercial consultant, has made contact with the properties that fall within the development’s footprint, some of which support the plans.

Some businesses say they have been left feeling uncertain of their future. Sandy Holt, who runs Bolton Thai Boxing Club within the intervention area, says the first he heard of the new development was when he received a flyer detailing the plans.

He said: “I don’t want to sit on top of the roof raising a flag but it would be nice if someone had told me what’s happening here because I’m not planning on shutting down.”

Discussions with a council representative have begun, but he questioned why no one had contacted him in advance to speak to him about the project.

Mr Holt opened the UK’s first Thai boxing gym in Bernard Street before moving to the corner of Brown Street and Manor Street six years later.

The biggest patch of land which the council will have to acquire belongs to Steelgrind Profiles Ltd, a family business which has operated in Bolton for more than 50 years.

Company director Russell Watkin said discussions with the council are ongoing but he mentioned that it would take several months to move his business out of the property it has occupied for 40 years.

Nigel Wilson, who runs Wilson Autos, said he was told by the council to start looking for a new location for his business which has operated in the Brown Street property for three years. He said: “I’m a man on my own – a sole trader. I’m only a small business. It’s not going to be cheap. It’s a lot of money that shouldn’t have to be laid out. It’s not fair – it doesn’t seem fair.”

However, Mr Wilson said that although the process is “daunting” he hopes that a relocation would benefit his company.

A compulsory purchase order can only be made where there is a compelling case in the public interest and the purpose sufficiently justifies interfering with the human rights of anyone with an interest in the land affected.

It will therefore have to make the case that the intervention would promote or improve the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of the area.

Richard Pidd, a partner at Diamond Glass in Brown Street, supports the plans but would not comment further while negotiations are still ongoing. He said: “The business will continue, and we are behind the plans.”

B&W Dental Laboratories Ltd in Manor Street said discussions have not yet begun.

Conservative councillor Martyn Cox said the issue was complicated enough without politicians getting involved. He said: “It has to be done.”

A council spokesman said: “The Church Wharf scheme is a key part of our £1bn town centre masterplan.

“Muse held drop-in sessions on the proposals recently for local businesses and residents which went well, with more than 300 people attending.

“Discussions are ongoing with businesses and we are hopeful that agreements can be reached with all parties.

“The council will only seek to use compulsory purchase powers as a last resort and to ensure that we are able to progress the development.”