'Traditional' retail space is not needed for the future says Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham in a visit to Bolton town centre to discuss planned redevelopments.

Mr Burnham was in the town centre with Bolton Council leader Cllr Nick Peel and many other councillors from the ruling Labour group to unveil a major project to aid regeneration in the town.

Part of this, Mr Burnham said, would be to ensure housing developments are completed in better time, and infrastructure is supported.

Mr Burnham reminisced on coming to Bolton when he was a child but said retail space was not needed in the future for Bolton in the way it traditionally was.

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The Bolton News: Andy Burnham with councillors

He said: “The reality is that we are not going to see the retail space being needed in the future in the way that it once was.

“I have spoken about coming here as a kid because Bolton was a massive retail centre for everybody in the North West, but as retail has changed, Bolton has had a bigger challenge with empty units.

“Some of that empty retail space needs to be repurposed or taken away with more residential development coming in.

“The reason why that is important, is that it brings in the footfall to support the businesses that are staying.

“Footfall then brings new businesses, bars, restaurants and other things that then build a night-time economy.”

The project, called the Mayoral Development Corporation, will still see Bolton Council deciding the masterplan and shape of the place, but will sit behind and support that masterplan with extra resources to make it a reality.

Mr Burnham said: “What people can expect to see is the developments starting to come together and the pieces of the jigsaw fit, because that’s what a Mayoral Development Corporation does.

“If you look at Stockport where we have done this, you have new infrastructure such as a cycling lane like we have here and it creates zones within the town and improves everything about it.”

Mr Burnham maintained that Greater Manchester Police will not find themselves unable to cope with more people in the town.

He said: “It isn’t a bad case that it will lead to more crime and anti-social behaviour, it might even be the opposite.

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“Because when you have more people about, areas become safer and better.”

Cllr Nick Peel pointed out that the town was improving its cultural offer, with the library services and museum of Egyptology, theatres, and events.

He said: “The regeneration is not just about buildings, but also about culture, leisure, family-friendly night-time economy and quality open spaces.

“When people talk about the decline of the town centre, what they actually mean is decline of retail corp which we have seen across the country.

“It is not an accident that Bolton hosts the biggest food festival in the country, it’s because Bolton Council is forward-thinking in bringing in people and showcasing our town.”