NEW sketches on how the heart of Bury town centre could evolve over the next 15 to 20 years have been revealed.

Blueprints for the areas around Market Place, Bolton Street, Bury Armoury and Pyramid Park have been unveiled as part of the new Bury town centre masterplan.

Fresh from the £20m flexi-hall approval for Bury Market and plans for a revamped interchange, the proposals include the ‘repurposing’ of Mill Gate shopping centre for ‘leisure, residential and business opportunities’.

Several fresh sites have also been picked out for town centre residential areas, under plans to be considered by the borough council’s cabinet next Wednesday.

Cllr Eamonn O’Brien, council leader, said: “The town centre has fared comparatively well in recent years, attracting significant investment and regeneration, and is one of the highest-ranking retail destinations in Greater Manchester.

“But while Bury has performed well as a retail-led centre, there are significant ongoing changes happening, apart from the impact of Covid, on people’s shopping habits

“Predictions suggest that there will be a 20 to 30 per cent drop in retail sales within town centres as more people shop online – something which the pandemic has accelerated.

“This means Bury cannot afford to stand still, and we need to plan for how we will adapt to the rapidly changing economic landscape facing high streets across the country.”

Rhian Davitt-Jones, associate director with CBRE, which has been working on the project closely with Bury Council, added: “The draft masterplan for Bury outlines an ambitious vision for the town centre over the next 20 years, which will help catalyse and attract new investment and development.

“We want people to be able to ‘Experience More’ from their town centre, building on the great assets such as the market and heritage that Bury already has.”

The ‘retail heart’ would be around Mill Gate, a new ‘Station Square’ is pegged for the cultural quarter and the flexi-hall would take pride of place next to the markets.

Under the bid, a ‘Knowledge Zone’ is envisaged, focusing on the new Bury College health innovation and STEM centre, Woodbury College and the Millennium Centre.

An eastern ‘gateway’, leading to The Rock, would see a new hotel built on the old fire station site and additional housing, with an innovation hub.

Meanwhile the western and south ‘gateways’ are earmarked for sustainable housing projects and public spaces.

A sports campus could emerge, based around the athletics track, to the south of the town centre and council chiefs want to continue to attract firms to the second phase of Chamberhall business park. Land to the south of the town centre is also being looked at for a possible new leisure facility, as well as extra car parking.

If the plans are backed by cabinet members next week then a six-week public consultation exercise will take place.