Bolton is taking the right steps to address its struggling high street, but calculated risks can help take the town to the next level, writes Nilesh Modhvadia of Cowgills.
I returned home to Bolton last year, taking up the position of audit director with Cowgills which has been headquartered here for almost 40 years. Many of my clients are from Bolton and we are all passionate about our home town.
Having gone to school and college in Bolton and then Salford University it’s great to be on home soil again and exciting to see the huge transformation which is taking place here.
Bolton is now attracting unprecedented levels of international investment, something I never thought I would see.
But, like so many town centres, Bolton’s high street is really suffering and it’s distressing to see. It’s not just the number of units left vacant as retail habits shift but the lack of care, investment and maintenance in the town’s roads and buildings is becoming clear after such a long period of spending cuts and austerity.
Bolton’s masterplan should go a long way to redressing those issues but, in my opinion, it will need key stakeholders to take calculated risks to ensure deliverability. We need to strike the right balance of offices, bars, restaurants, housing and leisure to create a town centre where people actually want to spend their time and money. It will give Bolton more of a ‘city-centre’ feel as well as attracting visitors from other nearly towns. The signs of the commitment are certainly there.
More than 1.5m sq ft of commercial office space is also being created which will also support business growth in the town. That will be a springboard to job creation which has to be the starting point for any regeneration programme.
Bolton Council has shown its intent with the acquisition of Crompton Place shopping centre and proposed development by Midia and BCEGI so it will be good to see this come forward.
It is fantastic though that there is now a clear plan in place as well designated funds. It appears that tangible progress in being made, including the recently opened bus and train interchange which is a much-needed improvement to our local infrastructure.
Bolton also has some real historic jewels in its crown such as our Art Gallery and Museum which is one of the finest in the country. Educationally Bolton is also top of the class. Cowgills has extremely close links with both Bolton School and Bolton University which feed us with talented local individuals each year.
By attracting local talent we will continue to understand and focus on the improvements to Bolton and make sure we protect its very distinct personality as it transforms into a modern town of which future generations will also be proud.