Atherton is the fourth largest town centre in the borough, with around 24,000 sq m of floorspace and is located 3 miles north-east of Leigh.
The Unitary Development Plan's aim to maintain the primary role of the borough's town centres as the focus for shopping and other commercial activity, has been achieved despite pressure for new and larger stores in 'out of town' locations. The Replacement Unitary Development Plan continues to promote town centres as the preferred location for larger retail, leisure and office developments. The emerging Core Strategy, within the Local Development Framework, will provide the new Planning Policy framework for all town centres.
In 2003, the council produced a 'Centreplan' for Atherton town centre, which provides informal planning guidance and a framework for development and investment within the area.