“BOOM town” Bury has spearheaded a remarkable retail resurgence with the official opening of the massive £350 million Rock complex.

Tens of thousands of people have turned out in force to get their first glimpse of the showpiece development which has transformed the centre of Bury, making it a premier shopping town in Greater Manchester.

But the opening also means the town is now a retail force to be reckoned with further afield too. Outside of London, The Rock is the only development of its type and scale to be built in 2010 within the UK.

The scheme elevates the town nearly 100 places up in the UK retail town rankings to number 62 while also creating 500 new jobs.

The Rock delivers 506,000 sq ft of new accommodation, comprising two large department stores, Marks and Spencer and Debenhams, together with 60 shop units, eight restaurants, 1,250 car parking spaces and top leisure facilities.

Vue has opened a 10-screen multiplex cinema and AMF a 24-lane bowling and family entertainment centre. The development also includes more than 400 flats.

Last Friday’s opening had a distinct carnival feel to it as the waiting crowds were entertained to a feast of entertainment in the run-up to the official simultaneous opening of the stores at 11am.

An hour before, many visitors sprinted into the new development when the gates were finally dismantled. And within minutes, queues began to form outside a number of stores, with eager Primark shoppers stretching to more than 100 yards, while visitors also filed outside M&S and Debenhams.

Visitors were serenaded by Reborn, a Taiko group who performed a traditional Japanese drumming ritual and there was an USA-style ticker tape welcome for shoppers. More than 180 schoolchildren, led by stiltwalkers, took part in an eye-catching Bury Beat Parade procession in a show of civic pride.

On a specially-built stage, VIPs gathered for the opening ceremony. They included Bury’s mayor, Cllr John Byrne, and council leader, Cllr Bob Bibby.

As the 11am opening time approached, Rock centre director Mr David Laycock addressed the eager crowds. He said: “This is a great day for Bury. The launch of the Rock will catapult the town into one of the North West's leading fashion hotspots.

“This stunning scheme heralds a new era for Bury, bringing a fantastic line-up of retailers, restaurants and leisure brands. We are incredibly proud of what we have been able to achieve together.”

He thanked those who had “the vision and who persevered to make it happen over 10 years,” the builders, the retailers and his own team.

Mr Laycock continued: “The response to the launch from the community has been overwhelming. It’s fantastic to see so many of you here today enjoying the celebrations.”

A delighted Bury mayor, Cllr John Byrne, who had officially opened the new Vue cinema the previous evening, said: “This is an absolutely fantastic day. Bury is now streets ahead of other towns.”

Many stores enjoyed a bumper first day of trading.