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Central Street, Bolton: Understanding the Context of Urban Intervention

Updated: Jun 22

By Stephen Morgan-Hyland, Managing Director, Maddox Planning

Client: Placefirst, leading BTR operator and regeneration specialist.

Our work for this scheme illustrates our approach to a high-profile high-density urban development, where heritage, transformation and local community feeling are all significant factors.

The Brief

Our client Placefirst, needed planning permission for a high-density development in Bolton town centre. It would be mainly new homes, but with some commercial use. There are listed buildings nearby, and the development sits part-within a conservation area.

There was also an environmental aspect to the brief. The site runs downhill from Deansgate towards the River Croal. The scheme would need to contribute to making the river more of an asset for the town centre by enabling greater community interaction via improvements to the river bank.

This would contribute to the wider Croal Valley scheme for improving the river environment.

The Issue

Whereas most of the proposed site had already been cleared, its frontage was on Deansgate, the main shopping street. This frontage contained no listed buildings but did have disused buildings whose age and importance were an important factor in the consideration of a planning application.

We needed to demonstrate our client's respect for the town’s heritage and history while recognising local aspirations for transformation.

Over time, Bolton town centre has lost many of its original historical features. The frontage onto Deansgate is a reminder of the town's architectural heritage. We needed to justify the loss of these buildings.

The proposed development was for the greater good of the town, but it would mean losing these older properties. Therefore, the scheme itself would have to be of sufficiently high quality to embody this concept.

Our Answer

Understanding context is vital to submitting successful planning applications.

Here, there was an opportunity for our client to leave a significant legacy by contributing to the transformation of an historical town centre.

But local feelings about regenerating Bolton were strong. There would be a tight focus on any proposed scheme and its outcomes, and whether it would contribute to, or detract from, the town’s reputation.

There was also a sense that previous attempts at urban transformation in the area had left feelings of disappointment and, to an extent, disillusionment. Local planning officers had communicated this to us.

Therefore, we looked for comprehensive local feedback through an online consultation event. The feedback helped us to get a clear idea of people’s feelings about regenerating this part of town.

Making the Case

We needed to work quickly, as there were certain time pressures in delivering an acceptable planning proposal.

When it came to compiling report, we started with factual details. This enabled us to construct a convincing narrative to make a case for change to the planning committee.

We began with our technical examination of the site, stating and clarifying all the material facts before applying our interpretation and analysis.

By doing this, we could provide hard, factual evidence and THEN make the case. The supporting facts were put in plain sight for us to then interpret them to make a convincing argument.

This makes the whole planning submission highly accessible, bringing clarity to our findings and to the entire proposed scheme.

Structure and Consistency

We knew the proposed scheme had the potential to become a flagship project – immediately across Deansgate are buildings of architectural importance and significance.

We made a convincing case to the planners for our client by structuring our report for clarity and accessibility and drawing on the consistency of our approach.

The Central Street development in Bolton town centre will provide a significant number of new homes and create new links to the River Croal.

It will transform Central Street into a connecting route that links the town centre with the regenerated river area.

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