Leythers are being urged by Greater Manchester’s mayor to embrace a radical new approach to transforming the town centre.
Andy Burnham, the town’s former MP, was speaking after a meeting to discuss Leigh’s involvement in the trailblazing Town Centre Challenge project.
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Leigh was nominated by Wigan Council to be part of the scheme, which aims to regenerate and unlock the town centre’s potential.
Mr Burnham said: “Leigh, as Wigan borough’s nomination as their location requiring special focus and targeted regeneration, is clearly a place close to my heart – I was proud to represent the constituency for many years as Member of Parliament.
“I know how much people care about Leigh town centre and as mayor I have new powers to bring to the table to help Wigan Council realise their ambitious vision.”
Olympic cyclist and the mayor’s cycling and walking commissioner, Chris Boardman, also attended the meeting together with numerous key stakeholders from across the public and private sector.
Delegates were told about exciting plans for 1,000 new homes and potential further residential development at Hilton Park, Turnpike House, Leigh Spinners Mill, Westleigh waterfront and the former BICC site on West Bridgewater canal.
A key focus of the meeting was unlocking sites for new residential development particularly aimed at younger people to create new vibrancy in the town centre.
Mr Burnham said: “The Town Centre Challenge is all about working across our 10 boroughs to regenerate town centres in all corners of Greater Manchester.
“Leigh, as Wigan borough’s nomination as their location requiring special focus and targeted regeneration, is clearly a place close to my heart – I was proud to represent the constituency for many years as Member of Parliament.
“Regeneration of these sorts of urban areas is a key priority for me. The Challenge provides councils with a significant opportunity to deliver real and sustainable change.
“I know how much people care about Leigh town centre and as Mayor I have new powers to bring to the table to help Wigan Council realise their ambitious vision.”
The meeting, hosted at Compassion in Action, heard how town centres needed to move away from being solely about retail and encourage residential development which in turn will lead to more bars, cafes and restaurants.
“The time has come to think more radically about how we open up the town,” said the Mayor.
“It is about refocusing our approach to planning. We need to build homes close to infrastructure and public transport to stop people using cars. We need to be more imaginative.
“I am heavily and personally invested in making sure this bit of the town centre challenge is a roaring success.”
Wigan Council leader Lord Smith supported the mayor’s approach and has backed the regeneration of the town centre with the £5m Believe In Leigh fund, £1m of which has been spent on the regeneration of Bradshawgate and the outdoor market.
He added: “When we consulted with residents about the £5m fund they told us what they wanted. This fund will build on ours to make Leigh a thriving and attractive town centre.”
Other plans include encouraging independent firms.