The latest update on Farnworth’s multi-million pound regeneration has been revealed. Kit Vickery takes a look.

Plans to transform Farnworth town centre have been unveiled.

The ambitious proposals include the redevelopment of the Market Precinct, a new community and civic ‘hub’, and a new housing development.

In a public meeting, Steve Burns, Head of Economic Development at Bolton Council, explained the progress and laid out responses from a recent public consultation.

Last year BDP, the architects appointed to the project, came up with a strategy for the redevelopment. In it, they shared six draft development proposals.

After a recent consultation, a new strategy was drawn up, which was revealed to residents last week at a Farnworth Area Forum meeting.

Mr Burns said: “It’s about changing the trends and improving things for the future.

“We have a very strong bid to deliver and I’m excited for what we have planned. I hope you can see that we have started to make progress.”

The Market Precinct site will now be a mixed use development under the plans, which the majority of residents said they supported in the consultation.

Comments from some residents included there being a shortage of pub restaurants and coffee shops to meet friends, the town needing more facilities for younger people, and the centre being ‘desperate’ for big name brands.

Addressing a packed meeting at the Trinity Church, Mr Burns said: “I know you’ve seen plans for redevelopments before but this time it’s different because we’re not relying on a third party.

“We are now in advanced discussions of an agreed acquisition of the St Modwen’s site and we are close to agreeing purchase.

“I’m not going into figures but the value of the land is less than the previous sale and an acquisition is imminent. We’re hoping to make an official statement in the next few months.”

Under the most recent proposals, a new Community Hub will be created in the Market Precinct.

This has been decided after previous plans, which included a possible closure of Home Bargains, were met with criticism.

One resident explained: “Home Bargains, along with ASDA, are the cornerstone of Farnworth’s shopping centre”.

The hub is set to include health facilities, but much-discussed plans to relocate the library have been shelved.

Almost half of respondents said they were against the proposals to move the library, with other residents saying existing buildings should be used for council services.

It was confirmed that the library will remain where it is.

With regard to housing, new plans unveiled include a pledge by the council to prioritise the use of land already owned by the council.

New housing developments were previously proposed on the north side of Park View, the Market Street car park, the back of Market Street, and the conversion of the Town Hall to apartments.

The plans were controversial, with residents saying they needed a better infrastructure to cope with more homes.

The council had previously proposed to convert Farnworth Town Hall into flats, but this was also met with opposition.

Residents argued the building should be ‘brought back to the local community’, and houses should be prioritised over apartments to attract families to the area.

At the meeting last week, Cllr Paul Sanders reassured residents that the Town Hall will not change ‘right now’.

He said the conversion “is not on the cards at the moment”, and no changes would be discussed until the next review in five years time.

The most supported plan was the extension of the leisure centre.

Feedback on the proposal welcomed modernisation of the pool and a wider variety of activities on offer.

Concerns were raised about access to the site via the road, and run down shop fronts limiting visual appeal.

The council has agreed to carry out cosmetic work on buildings while working on the expansion.

The final plan to improve public spaces was met with a positive response, with one resident saying: “Any cosmetic work to make anywhere look better in Farnworth is a yes from me.”

The plans look to link the town centre to the park and university campus using Cross Street and Gas Street, with residents suggesting a better route to the railway station too.

A new proposal to make cosmetic improvements to buildings in the area was also added.

The council has said it is committed to applying for external funding for the project and one of these applications has progressed to the next stage.

In December 2018, the Government announced a £675m Future High Streets Fund for local areas to improve their town centres, welcoming Expression of Interest bids for up to £25m.

Farnworth now has until April 2020 to submit a Business Case for how the redevelopment will use these funds, and successful bids will be announced next Autumn.