Morrisons and casino could go under plans for 'digital city' in Bolton

Friday 6th March 2020

And the authority has enlisted professional advisors to explore how to acquire the sites and redevelop them.

Under the same plans properties in Newport Street, fronting the transport interchange, could be demolished under the plans to transform the area into a digital business hub, in what is being termed as the 'sixth intervention area".

The properties could be acquired under the authority's compulsory purchasing powers.

The council also owns land in the area including Blackhorse Street car park.

The council said the plans are at a very early stage and were subject to a "long process" and stressed that no business was at risk of closure anytime soon.

The other five intervention areas drawn up to transform the town centre by 2030 take in Victoria Square/ Crompton Place, Trinity Gateway, Cheadle Square, Church Wharf and Croal Valley development.

Blackhorse Street intervention area is earmarked for a 7.3 hectare "digital city" which could include spaces for businesses and the community to use for meetings, workspaces, digital labs and innovation hubs ­ -- which are designed to discover new ways businesses can harness technology.

Detailed plans are yet to be developed but it would be delivered via a commercial joint venture with a private sector developer.

Council bosses say that a digital hub for businesses is key to ensure the £1.5bn masterplan is a success.

Director of Place, Gerry Brough stated in a report: "To fully achieve the aims of the regeneration plan, the town needs to be at the heart of the digital economy and become a centre of innovation for existing and new businesses to flourish.

"An investment in digital platforms and technologies is central to business transformations, new products and the attraction of higher value services for businesses.

"Digital cities are the cornerstones of innovation to harness resources and capabilities and are dedicated to turning ideas into successful ventures."

Digital cities include of superfast, well connected, interactive technologies which provide information and services to benefit businesses and the public.

Mr Brough said he believed that a Bolton 'digital city' would become one of the "preferred locations for global technology leaders at the forefront of innovative digital technologies - many of whom will want to develop close links with local universities."

The council has been in discussions with key property owners in the area via its agents, real estate advisors Colliers International.

Bolton Council Leader, Cllr David Greenhalgh said: "Embracing innovation and digital technologies is the best way for Bolton to stay competitive, expand and achieve more for business and the people living and working in the town.

"Investors should feel reassured that Bolton is driving ahead with longer term plans beyond the completion of the five existing development projects, stimulating additional waves of growth and regeneration in Bolton town centre."

If the report is approved by Cabinet today, council officers will explore a range of potential joint venture options .

The masterplan was first announced in September 2017.

Planning permission has been granted for two major schemes ­ -- £150m riverside neighbourhood at Church Wharf, featuring a mix of up to 352 new homes, a hotel, offices, leisure and retail, and a £35m development by Bolton-based Forshaw Land & Property Group for 262 new apartments and town houses on land fronting St Georges Road, Croal Valley.

Morrisons, the bingo hall and the casino have all been approached for a comment.

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