THERE is absolutely no point in standing, King Canute-like, trying to stem the flow of out-of-town shopping centres around the country. And in Bolton, having already grasped that particular nettle with the advent of Middlebrook, the decision to approve another multi-million pound retail scheme at the Tonge Valley is entirely in keeping with the current trend.

This move will not only mean 600 new jobs for the area, but it will become a further reason for people who might not automatically visit Bolton to now do so.

The way we shop has changed dramatically in the last decade and any town - especially one yearning to be a city - must not only acknowledge this, but plan accordingly.

When Middlebrook was mooted, Bolton looked like a forward-thinking authority, quick to leap on the '90s retail bandwagon. Unusually, while giving the thumbs up to Tonge Valley, the planning committee has now deferred a decision on a £20 million factory outlet application for Middlebrook pending a site visit and presentation from developers, Orbit.

The main argument against out-of-town shopping centres when they have been proposed in so many towns and cities in the UK has been that they would cripple town centre shopping.

Probably true, but the towns and cities affected have simply had to fight back with improved facilities and better deals for shoppers. And the main winner in all this has been the customer.


Bolton Council certainly needs to be armed with all the relevant retail facts and figures when such major decisions are made here. But laying any lack of information at the door of the Town Centre Partnership smacks of searching for a scapegoat.

Bolton Metro has paid officers whose job it is to furnish councillors with information to help them make informed decisions about our town. It is not up to any voluntary body, however vested their interest in those decisions, to do their job for them.

This has obviously been one of the most difficult decisions for the council to take. But, having taken it, it is now up to all concerned to co-operate in finding ways to exploit these major retail attractions. Bus visitors back to the town centre, persuade them of the wealth of good things around Bolton, but please, let's be practical, and face reality.

Converted for the new archive on 14 July 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.