AS national retailers suffer, Bolton’s development bosses are planning an ambitious change to the high street. They say it's vital that the town centre plans a ‘radically’ different future.

Bolton leaders are ploughing on with a £1.5bn transformation of the centre. Plans approved last month have painted a very different picture of Bolton — centred around housing and leisure.

Two blocks of 144 apartments, 30,000 sq ft of office space and a 505-space multi-storey car park are set to be built at the Trinity Gateway site and should be completed by January 2022.

The major development between Trinity Street and Bradshawgate worth £55m also features a public open space approximately half the size of Victoria Square.

The former magistrates’ court in Le Mans Crescent is also set to be converted into a luxury hotel operated by an “internationally-recognised upscale” firm.

Deputy council leader and the man in charge of Bolton’s development and regeneration, Cllr Martyn Cox, says the transformation ‘has to happen’ to save the town centre.

He said: “It’s always a shame to see brands go because behind every closure there’s the staff and uncertainty but it’s part of a much bigger problem. People are doing so much of their shopping online, it’s not something any politician can just reverse, it’s the habits of shoppers."

The new Bolton plans will stave off the effects of the national downturn for retailers, according to the councillor, but the town is not alone in its need to find a new way of bringing people to its centre.

He said: “It’s indicative of the UK high street. More sales are going online, fewer and fewer people are going out visiting shops. If you look at the number of retailers that have closed down or significantly reduced, you understand the pressure that the high street is under.

“Our whole redevelopment plan is reorganising that. Retail in the future will play a much smaller role in the life of a town centre, that’s why the redevelopment is geared towards housing, experiences — much is being invested in The Octagon for this. People will still come into the town centre for a little bit of shopping but it won’t be a retail experience as it was.”

But the councillor is confident the centre will survive: “Town centres are not going away but they have to change radically. Bolton has a huge change planned.

“By changing Bolton town centre the way we are, we hope to give it a long term future. If we do nothing and watch the shops go, the town centre does not have a future. This will give the town centre a new lease of life, if you come back to Bolton in 10 years you will find it much changed."

"You can’t hold back this tide.

“Bolton is changing in a way that many authorities are quite envious of, and it’s got to happen.”