William Atherfold’s letter about the decline of Bolton town centre will have struck a chord with many.

The retail environment is changing rapidly with the accelerated increase of online shopping due to Covid. That alone would be a challenge even if Bolton had optimised everything else to put it in the best possible place to meet that challenge – but it hasn’t.

The town centre is broken.

Drug users, dealers, drunks and beggars have now claimed the town centre as their home (or workplace).Whereas before these people would hide in the shadows, they now feel emboldened to operate in broad daylight. The council and police have been sleeping at the wheel to allow this to take root.

It isn’t just the commercial “town centre” that’s the problem. The problem has bled into the surrounding residential streets that border the town centre.

Efforts are made by the council to keep the town centre clean but that enthusiasm wanes when it comes to the nearby streets.

Residents have to live amongst the litter, the fly-tipping and the increased number of rats. Inevitably, people want to move out of the area and are replaced with people who are more willing to live in these conditions and some of these people contribute to the fly-tipping and litter making the area increasingly impoverished.

Only a three-minute drive away lies the leafy streets of Heaton and Lostock where residents could justly believe that I am describing a fantasy world but as someone who lives in the affected area I can say that Bolton is rotting from the inside out.

M Kozlowski