THE new leader of Bolton Council has declared the regeneration of Farnworth as the town hall’s ‘top priority’.

Farnworth was nominated for funding from Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham’s ‘Town Centre Challenge’ by previous leader Cliff Morris.

And speaking at a meeting of council leaders from across Greater Manchester, Cllr Thomas confirmed her commitment to the town — which some residents claim has been ‘left behind’ while Bolton enjoys millions in new investment.

She said: “We’re not afraid to say that, actually, Farnworth town centre is our top priority.”

And referring to the long delayed regeneration of the town centre promised by developers St Modwen, she added: “We are going to give the people of Farnworth something they have been asking for, for a long time, that for various reasons has been stalled. It’s been a long time coming.”

And Cllr Thomas says that even if Farnworth does not benefit from the Town Centre Challenge the council would continue to look at ‘every option to unlock the investment in Greater Manchester.

She added: “If we don’t get that far it’s still raising the profile of potential for investment in Farnworth and making it clear to developers that, by bringing housing to town centres like Farnworth, we can bring that vibrancy back.”

Andy Burnham has pledged the initiative will move away from the ‘developer-led, green-field first approach’ of the past.

Cllr Thomas wants to align the council’ with his brownfield-first policies , believing that bringing housing into the town is the most important objective.

She added: “We want to try and bring some vibrancy back into some of our other town centres, other than the main one and we desperately need to bring some housing back into some of these areas.

“We can demonstrate to people that we are bit to bring brownfield sites back in to protect the greenbelt.”

“It’s not just about bringing retail and food offers into the town centre, it’s about making it vibrant, with people working there, living there, and feeling they have ownership of it.”

Paul Sanders, Farnworth and Kearsley First party’s candidate at the forthcoming by-election in the ward gave a cautious welcome to the news.

He said: “It can only be seen as a good thing that Cllr Thomas is talking about Farnworth but to refer it to Andy Burnham’s scheme is an admission that the council has allowed Farnworth to become left behind, and we exist for that very reason. The proposal of brownfield sites within towns is a good thing. But we have to keep our town centres, they’re the identity of each town.”