Opinions were divided on the the multi-million refurbishment of Westhoughton Town Hall at a recent council meeting.

Proposals for the 120-year-old site were approved by cabinet member for regeneration Cllr Adele Warren last month, but theplans were called in to a scrutiny committee by Lib Dem leader Roger Hayes.

Included in the proposals for the site on Market Street is a combination of commercial and office space at ground level, as well as workspaces on the first floor and second floor. There is also a restoration to the council chamber, although the library and Carnegie Hall are unaffected by the work.

READ MORE: Westhoughton town hall plans to be considered

Cllr Hayes warned there was a risk of it 'ruining the town hall'.

The Bolton News:

At the time, he said: "There's a feeling the plan is ruining the town hall and it's not supported by people in Westhoughton.

"I know the Conservative Group would like to get it through before the elections, so that it's out of the way, but we'll see."

When the scrutiny committee met at the town hall on March 2, another Lib Dem Garry Veevers repeated these sentiments.

In what was an uncommon occurrence for the scrutiny committee, he called upon public participation in the proceedings.

The Bolton News:

Cllr Veevers said: "We called it in because we think there is more opposition to this plan than the report suggests.

"Also, we think a lot of money is being spent on what is a commercial venture with little or no community value."

Gaynor Ratcliffe and Michelle O'Riordan, of the Westhoughton Town Hall Community Focus Group, criticised a 'lack of communication' and a 'lack of transparency' by the council. They said additions and alterations to the proposals for the site since a consultation in 2020 meant another consultation was necessary.

But another local Colin Higson said there was no time to waste.

READ MORE: Bolton Council spent tens of thousands on Levelling Up bids.

Westhoughton Town Hall £3M plans will preserve the building for generations to come

Mr Higson, 'a proud Keawyed', said: "It's a wonderful opportunity.

"I'm staggered anyone wouldn't want this to go ahead," he added.

When the proposals were called in to the scrutiny committee, Cllr Warren said it would add a number of weeks to what was a tight timetable in light of a rise in costs.

Conservative Group colleague John Walsh reiterated this to the scrutiny committee.

READ MORE: Bolton Masterplan: Council to tempt investors into town centre.

Cllr Walsh said: "I'm not here tonight to defend [Cllr Warren], I'm here tonight to make sure an important building in this borough of Bolton is protected and preserved.

"The longer this work is deferred, the greater the costs for council taxpayers will be."

In spite of this, the refurbishment was referred to Cllr Warren for reconsideration to look at 'addressing concerns' and 'including an element of community involvement'.

Councillors were divided down the middle on whether to do so, but as chair Cllr Veevers made the decisive vote.

This article was written by Jack Tooth. To contact him, email jack.tooth@newsquest.co.uk or follow @JTRTooth on Twitter.