The vacant former Marks and Spencer building in Bolton town centre ‘lends itself’ to residential use as well as retail, the council leadership has said.

It was announced recently that agreement had been reached with the shopping giant about an early surrender of their lease of the building, which runs until 2027.

Bolton Council, who own the building and continue to collect around £1M a year in rent from M&S, said gaining full control of the building was a key factor in paving the way for the demolition of the nearby Crompton Place shopping centre, which is set to take place in early 2025.

The store on Deansgate shut down ten months ago after trading for more than 100 years and has remained empty since. The news about the proposed lease surrender has lead to speculation about the future of the M&S building.

It is understood that with large-scale department stores disappearing from the high street, the council concedes it is unlikely the entire building will be ever be used exclusively for retail. The council said it intends to work with a developer to open up the façade to bring light into the front of the building and

remove the existing cladding which would create residential opportunities on the upper floors.

This would match the council’s plan to build more homes and its ambition to attract 5,000 more people to live in the town centre. The ground floor aspiration of the council is for commercial use with a smaller supermarket one of the options being considered.

Council leader Nick Peel also refused to rule out a return for Marks and Spencer to the town centre.

Read more: Bolton Council leader says M&S building now worth £5M after being bought for £15M

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He said: “The likelihood is that the building because of its scale will lend itself to different uses that could be commercial space and equally I think it lends itself particularly well to residential accommodation.

The Bolton News: The empty buildingThe empty building

“Our other projects around the town centre show that it is residential led regeneration but certainly at ground floor level we would expect to bring forward various retail opportunities.

“This time next year we’ll have around 1,000 additional people living in the town centre and more in the future. Marks and Spencer would never close the door on a return to Bolton town centre with a smaller store.

“With a town centre population that will continue to grow, those people will need their goods and service, local shops and cafés.

“The regeneration will increase economic activity in the town centre.”