Market traders in Wigan have been handed a boost ahead of what town hall bosses say could be a year of upheaval in the town centre.
The council is handing traders three months rent free to support their businesses and in recognition “for providing such a great service to shoppers”.
It will really lift the centre of town, providing a much better space for events and performancesKarl Battersby
The move comes as 2017 will see improvements to the bus station and to Market Place meaning construction works may cause periods of disruption.
Council bosses have urged residents to back their local market, one of the longest running of its kind in the country.
Coun David Molyneux, Wigan Council’s cabinet member for regeneration and deputy leader, said: “At Wigan Council we are passionate about supporting our local markets.
“Giving traders three months rent-free indicates our commitment to supporting traders this year and I hope they all have a very successful 2017.”
The improvements to Market Place have been in the offing for several years but have faced delays.
The £1.3m project was temporarily shelved after a financial review and has undergone some design tweaks such as a large water feature being scrapped.
Planning documents show the location will be split into three tiers, creating space for large-scale events, with the historic tramways that once bisected the town centre highlighted in the design.
Karl Battersby, council director of economy and environment, has previously told the Evening Post: “We’ve had a rethink on the water feature aspect of it, so that won’t be there. It will start very early in the new year and have high quality seating and lighting.
“It will really lift the centre of town, providing a much better space for events and performances.”
Specific dates for the construction work are expected to be released in the coming weeks with the town hall having stated the project was scheduled for the early part of 2017.
Trader Olive Ogden, who runs Dazzlers, a popular children’s clothing stall, welcomed the three month rent-free offer.
She said: “We welcome Wigan Council supporting the market through the three months rent-free.
“The market is a vital part of Wigan town centre so it is important that both residents and the local council support it. I would urge anyone who hasn’t been to the market or hasn’t visited for a while to come down and see what we have on offer and support their local market.”
Major works to improve the bus station will also begin in 2017, led by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) and funded by central government, the project will cost £15m.
The revamp received the green light from the council’s planning officers in May last year and has gone through a public consultation.
The new station will be open for use by the end of 2018.
Mr Battersby said: “A new bus station in Wigan is a key part in delivering an improved transport system for the borough that is fit for the decades ahead.
“It will support the economic growth of the town and enable people to get to and from their places of work as well as Wigan’s great shops, markets, restaurants and bars in a modern environment.”