CHEADLE Square, situated within the ‘cultural quarter’, is known as the historic heart of Bolton ­— and a magnet for visitors thanks to its grand civic architecture and cultural attractions. It could form the cornerstone of the regeneration and transformation of the town. Saiqa Chaudhari reports.

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AT one time it was bustling with activity, but all that remains is a vast expanse of prime land ­— which could prove key to the transformation of Bolton.

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The old bus station in Moor Lane was demolished in 2018 after a new modern multi-million transport hub was created, signalling the start of ambitious plans for the town centre.

Bolton Council today revealed that a new steering group has been established to decide what part the land will play in the masterplan.

It is working with Bolton and District Civic Trust and other parties.

A Bolton Council spokesman said: “We have established a steering group, involving the Civic Trust and other key stakeholders to assess ‘masterplanning’ options for the bus station area, since we are hoping to make this development the centrepiece of Bolton’s Towns Fund bid.”

The town has been named as one of a 100 places in the UK to share in the £3.6 billion Towns Fund, which aims to ‘support towns to build prosperous futures’.

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A total of 42 places across the Northern Powerhouse are among the 100 pioneers of new ‘Town Deals’, which will aim to boost towns through improving transport, broadband connectivity and providing social and cultural infrastructure.

Bolton is one of only four towns in Greater Manchester set to benefit and the council will now put together a business case for the proposed investment.

The town’s selection is regarded as a “vote of confidence in Bolton”.

Cheadle Square itself, which is situated on the other side of the Le Mans Crescent archway, was the subject of controversial plans in 2015, when the University of Bolton was looking to build student accommodation in the area.

Those plans have since been scrapped and there are no developments earmarked for that area.

Professor George E Holmes DL, President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Bolton, said: “In terms of student accommodation, we took a strategic decision to bring in a student accommodation management company as our partners who have specific expertise to manage and enhance the halls at Orlando Village which enables us to provide improved accommodation, while allowing the university to concentrate on providing the best possible teaching and learning facilities for our students, such as the new Medical Sciences building.”

Council bosses have previously said they would take a “very sensitive” approach to the development proposals on the land behind Le Mans Crescent and the former bus station due to the heritage of the area.

The Cheadle Square intervention area takes in a number of central sites including the former bus station, Le Mans Crescent, Bolton Town Hall, Albert Halls, Civic Centre and Bolton Museum.

Future proposals for the Cheadle Square area include combining high-end residential and commercial developments with improvements to transport network and street scene.

There is already significant investment going into the ‘cultural quarter’ with the multi-million pound transformation of the Octagon nearing completion.

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A boutique hotel is set to open in the former Bolton Magistrates’ Court along with separate serviced apartments after plans were approved by Bolton Council. Under the plans, the courthouse will be sensitively converted into an 87-bedroom hotel which will create around 100 new jobs in the town. The hotel will be operated by Hospitality Associates on behalf of an internationally-renowned hotel brand.

Martyn Cox, deputy leader of Bolton Council, said: “Cheadle Square is very much an important part of the town centre plan. It is a prime site.”

The developments in the Cheadle Square intervention area are part of a larger scheme for Bolton town centre, with plans put forward to develop the Trinity Quarter.

Plans for the key gateway site into the town centre include a 20-storey residential tower of 144 apartments and 30,000 sq ft of Grade A office space.