Bolton unveils plans for digital city to transform town

Digital City

Bolton Council has unveiled plans for a ‘super connected digital city’ to put the town at the heart of the digital economy.

Located around Blackhorse Street, the 7.3 hectare ‘digital city’ would be delivered via a commercial joint venture with a private sector developer.

Detailed plans are yet to be developed but the council believes that successful delivery of its existing £1.5bn regeneration of the town centre depends on Bolton being a digital hub for business and people to thrive.

The development would represent a sixth ‘intervention area’ of Bolton Council’s £1.5bn masterplan to transform the town centre by 2030, with other major regeneration schemes at Victoria Square/Crompton Place, Trinity Gateway, Le Mans Hotel, Church Wharf and Central Street.

Director of Place, Gerry Brough said: “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.”

Mr Brough defined digital cities as the “transformation of urban areas through the use of superfast, well connected, interactive technologies which provide information and transactional services for the benefit of businesses and citizens.”

In a recommendation to Cabinet, he says the ‘digital city’ can only be achieved by working in partnership with “one or more” commercial development partners with a proven track record of “delivering large-scale, sustainable regeneration schemes, providing digital infrastructure.”

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.”

Mr Brough therefore recommends the creation of a joint venture partnership as the best method to regenerate the Blackhorse Street area, reflecting the council’s partnerships with private sector developers on the other major regeneration schemes.

For the past six months, the council has been in discussions with key property owners in the Blackhorse Street area via its appointed agents, real estate advisors Colliers International.

Bolton Council leader 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 before returning to Cabinet to progress an ‘open and transparent’ process to establish such a partnership.

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