This is my plaice! Bolton council takes a battering after being forced to scrap market revamp by defiant chippy owner

By Lauren Brown

A defiant fish and chip shop boss has turned down a £100,000 hand-out to save his 45-year-old family business from being bulldozed by Bolton council developers.

Peter McGowan, 53 was offered the money to quit his prime spot to make way for renovation work outside a market hall.

But Mr McGowan, who has run Pilling’s Market Chippy for 27 years after it was founded by his father-in-law Derek Pilling in 1968, vowed not to let the shop’s long history become tomorrow’s fish and chip paper.

He turned down a £40,000 compensation offer from Bolton Council to hand over the premises, then rejected an improved offer of £100,000 insisting he would not be moved.

Now his stance has forced officials to mothball its £440,000 plan to alter the entrance of Bolton market, to the joy of other retailers and ensuring his staff will keep their jobs.

Mr McGowan who lives in Ramsbottom said: “It was not about the money, it was about saving an important part of the community and I wasn’t going to give up without a fight.

”I have old age pensioners who rely on this shop and love coming in for chit chat as well as fish and chips. I just didn’t want to surrender all those years of blood sweat and tears in a stroke, just so the council could get its way.

Mr McGowan called Bolton Council ‘shady’ for the way they announced that Pillings would be no more, and said he was adamant that he wasn’t going to let the history of the chippy perish without a fight.

”They could have offered me double that money and I still wouldn’t have budged. The chip shop is important not only to me but the whole community,” he said.

”Customers have been saying to me ‘good one’ and that we need somebody to stand up to the council who seem to care nothing about small businesses.”

The chip shop was originally opened on a Bolton back street by Mr McGowan’s father-in-law in 1968, after fleeing as a child from Guernsey to Britain during the Second World War.

Mr McGowan, a former physical training instructor in the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment, took over in 1986 but his father-in-law, now 79, still helps out.

The shop has been at its current location, at the corner of Bolton Market in Black Horse Street, for 16 years.

His battle began after Bolton Council announced plans to fund a £440,000 glass entrance to the market hall, then revealed it would be built on the site of the chip shop.

Mr McGowan added: “They came to the shop and told me in a matter of face way what their plans entailed and said my shop going to be no longer in existence.

”They gave us two options – to relocate or receive compensation. I was shocked and very angry. They said I could move but I was already in the best spot.

”I was determined I wasn’t going to back down and I was very close to hiring a barrister to help defend me if it went to court.

Mr McGowan turned down the Council’s original pay-off, as it fell way under his estimation.

“At first they offered me £40,000 and I was furious – especially as our turnover was quite high at the time. I was never going to bow down to them I’m not that type. Some people just taking a whipping and go under the table but I’m not like that,” he told MM.

“Then they offered to pay out £100,000 for me to move but that was laughable too.  The equipment alone is worth £80,000.

“I just thought about the history of the chip shop. It’s my life, my livelihood. I have sacrificed a lot for this business, I love it. I never have a day off and I don’t go on holidays. I’m trying the best for my family.”

Despite seemingly winning the battle, Mr McGowan said it is simply business as usual. He said: “I believe you have to stand up and make your point. I can’t say that I celebrated when we were victorious because we didn’t have any money-we were still trying to keep the business afloat.

“It’s a win for the little people like a David and Goliath style battle.

”I think the council probably dread hearing my name but it’s my nature to stand toe to toe with these people. They could have gone about it better.”

The entrance will now remain at its current site near Moor Lane bus station after Bolton Council cited ”increased costs and feedback from traders.”

A spokesman said: “When we released the first set of plans, a new entrance on the corner of Black Horse Street and New Street was an option that we considered.

“We have decided not to proceed with the new entrance and revised the plans. This was after discussions with traders but more so because the cost of the new entrance was much higher than anticipated.”

“We have tried our best to help all of our businesses. We have held individual meetings with traders to address any specific concerns.”

Image courtesy of Terry Whalebone, with thanks

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