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Mayor Andy Burnham hails Town Centre Challenge progress to revitalise high street on visit to Farnworth

TRANSFORMATION of Farnworth into a liveable town centre could be the blueprint for the future of the high street, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has said.

The Mayor made the comments during a visit to see progress at Farnworth Green near Bolton. Social impact developers Capital&Centric recently started work there to deliver a mix of new apartments and family townhouses alongside café bars, shops and green community spaces.

It’s one of the locations identified in the Greater Manchester Mayor’s Town Centre Challenge – aimed at revitalising town centres after the growth of internet shopping and large out-of-town retailers squeezed areas traditionally reliant on high street footfall.

Farnworth Green, the reboot of Farnworth, is aimed at creating a new town centre model. Capital&Centric’s plans will introduce high quality homes for rent to get more people calling it home, as well welcoming green community spaces where people can hang out.

It will also feature commercial spaces aimed at independents and start-ups, with a view to create a high street offer unique to Farnworth rather than a replica of others. It’s hoped that the major project could be a blueprint for how other centres across Greater Manchester and the UK can reverse their fortunes.

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said:

“Our town centres have so much potential to be transformed, and to become new places for communities to live, do business, and discover the vibrant and diverse culture of our city-region.

“That potential isn’t always realised, which is why we launched the Town Centre Challenge back in 2018, and why we continue to support our local authorities to deliver on their regeneration plans.

“It really is exciting to see the progress being made here in Farnworth, and it’s our hope that this can become a blueprint for revitalising high streets across Greater Manchester”

Delivery of such projects is often fraught with challenges due to viability. Including high quality architecture akin to a city centre can be difficult due to lower values.

Farnworth’s inclusion as a Town Centre Challenge location, with an associated masterplan for its future, was key to unlocking the necessary funding. It’s been made possible thanks to a mix of funding including the Government’s Future High Street Fund, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s Brownfield Housing Fund and Bolton Council’s District Centres Fund.

Tim Heatley, co-founder of Capital&Centric, said:

“Town centres have, for decades, been the heart of the community. But changing habits have meant the traditional high street has become a shadow of its former self, especially in towns like Farnworth where there’s less footfall. We can’t just write them off as a victim of the internet generation.

“Our mission has always been not only to create a new blueprint – of a town centre where a new generation of people want to live as well as shop – but to also deliver high quality architectural design that you’re used to seeing in city centres. That way we can create a lively place where people young and old aspire to live and a critical mass of people that will patronise the independent shops, café bars and events.

“It’s a new model that we really think could be replicated around the country, with the right partnership and forward-thinking authorities like in Bolton and Greater Manchester.”

Bolton Council adopted a new Town Centre Strategy for Farnworth in 2019, with regeneration to be delivered in phases.

Work has already begun at the Farnworth Green site, with demolition of the dated parade of shops underway, making way for construction to start in the new year. The project is set for completion in 2024.

Bolton Council Leader, Cllr Martyn Cox, said:

“As a council, we established the District Centres Fund to help regenerate towns like Farnworth and make them more vibrant and exciting places to live, work and visit.

“Farnworth Green is a great example of a modern town centre development, and it was a pleasure to visit the site with Andy Burnham to view the progress that has already been made.

“This is an exciting time for Farnworth with improved public space along Market Street and work also underway to expand the local leisure centre.

“Before work started, we consulted with Farnworth residents and each of the development projects is designed to directly address the priorities of the local community.”

When complete, Farnworth Green will deliver liveable town centre, with spaces that help foster the community coming together, including:

  • Design-led homes: Including 85 one and two bedroom apartments as well as 12 family homes (two and three bedroom) to create a real mix of residents calling Farnworth home
  • Commercial: Over 20,000 sq.ft of space for bars, cafes and independent stores
  • Community hub: A groundfloor community hub, providing a space to meet-up
  • A new public square: Complete with green spaces and places to relax
  • Outdoor community spots: Including an events pavilion, set to support outdoor community events from art and live music to makers markets
  • Greenery: Lush landscaping to introduce greenery to the town centre
  • Accessibility: Pedestrian links through the community and safe cycle storage
News Desk
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