THE demolition of the Crompton Place shopping centre could be delayed by five months because of a nesting peregrine falcon in the Bolton Town Hall clock tower, a meeting has heard.

The centre is set to be cleared in 2021 to make way for a new £250 million shopping housing and leisure complex.

Agreements have already been made with 66 of the 72 leaseholders or owners in the current centre to relocate or be compensated, and demolition of the site, once it is vacant, was due for January 2021.

However, a cabinet meeting heard that had now slipped at best to next March next year and any further delay would mean having to wait a further five months because of the ‘falcon situation’.

Gerry Brough, Bolton’s director of place, told councillors: "There’s a nesting bird of prey in the clock tower of the town hall and that determines what people can and can’t do in terms of noise around the vicinity of the town hall.

“So demolition could not go ahead during the nesting season and that season runs from the end of March until September.

“If we don’t meet the spring for vacant possession of the site and start demolition we will have to aim for September 2021 as clearly the nesting season will always remain the same.

“It will be spring of next year or autumn. It certainly won’t be summer.”

The meeting also agreed for steps to be put in place to compulsory purchase ‘a small number of occupiers of Crompton Place whose expectations are unrealistic’ should agreement with them not take place in the next few weeks.

Mr Brough said the timing of demolition depended on getting vacant possession of the site.

He said the Covid-19 pandemic meant that major retailers like Primark and Boots were in a period of uncertainty which may encourage them to stay in the centre longer than might otherwise be the case.

Cllr Martin Donaghy said that workers employed in the centre were ‘in the dark’ about when it would close.

Mr Brough replied: “We consult fully with owners and leaseholders not necessarily with employees of the shopping centre."

Cllr Nick Peel told the meeting that there was public scepticism about the project and that Boltonians wanted to see ‘cranes in the air and boots on the ground’ with the project.

Council leader Cllr David Greenhalgh replied: “Delays are hugely frustrating for everyone. We will be as open and up front as we can."

"We are doing our best to move it forward as best we can but nobody can put an accurate timescale until we have full control of the site."