Wherever I go people want to know what happened to the once thriving Bolton Town Centre and how can it be revived?

Anyone who was around in the 80s or 90s will remember Bolton not just as a great shopping destination but also with a busy and vibrant nightlife. Seeing much of this disappear is heart breaking to those of us who have Bolton in our DNA.

Bolton’s decline has been well documented, a collapse in retain from a sector that was growing at around seven per cent a year to one contracting at a similar rate. T

This hit Bolton hard as comparative to other towns, we had a very large retail footprint which had expanded to include retail parks on the edge of town and of course at Middlebrook in Bolton and the Trafford Center further afield, with the expectation retail would continue to grow exponentially.

It didn’t. Along came the internet and the retail world was turned upside down.

At the same time people social habits changed, home entertainment and social media meant fewer people were going out and spending money in the night time economy.

Added to all this the demographics radically changed. People moved into the town whose social habits and religious beliefs were radically different from those who were leaving the town.

Previous councils failed to see this happening and acted too slowly.

So what is the future of the town centre now?

It must include more people living and working on former retail sites.

Residents who still visit the town centre are beginning to see what we were working so hard on, during my time as leader of the council.

Getting people into the town centre will create the kind of footfall local retailers and businesses need to survive, grow and to attract new investors.

Building housing on brownfield sites helps us to provide much needed new homes without further incursions on to the greenbelt. Bolton town centre will never be, as we once knew it, but it does not have to be in a state of permanent decline. Just a few days ago the Government committed a further £20m in levelling up money to add to the millions that have already been committed, this kick start is just what we need in the short term but it is the private sector investor that will really make the difference. Investors: Your town needs you!

The signs that things are beginning to change are there, but it is a long and painful process, but I am determined to do all I can whether as leader or in opposition to make the town centre, a place we can be proud of again.