THERE was confusion about whether Bolton Council has a "preferred applicant" for the controversial Loco Works development site at a meeting of Horwich Town Council. 

One resident accused Bolton Council of having a "hidden agenda" after separate plans for the site were allegedly dismissed - a claim that was strongly refuted by the leader of the council.

Developers Horwich Vision submitted plans for 1,700 homes to be built on the site in January, but a meeting of Horwich Town Council heard that a second application, from Hong Kong Racing Ltd, for 28 apartments and 130 dwellings as well as recreational space and new pedestrian and cycle routes has been submitted.

But when resident Barry Jubb accused Bolton Council of having a preferred bidder for the site, the members of Bolton Council who also sit on Horwich Town Council appeared to disagree on whether this was the case.

Mr Jubb said: "I was present at a meeting in March where this other application was discussed, then, at a meeting about the loco works, Cllr (Ken) Denton handed a leaflet about the plans to (town council leader) Kevin McKeon.

"He gave it a cursory glance and said it will not happen.

"I want to know the real reason - I put it to you that Bolton Council has a preferred bidder. There is a hidden agenda and I want to know what it is."

Cllr McKeon, who is both a Bolton borough and Horwich town councillor responded by stating that there was "nothing untoward going on" but that Bolton Council "does have a preferred developer".

He added: "That is what councils do when they want areas developed, but of course anyone can put in an application.

"The reason I would oppose this application is because it's not part of the overall vision the council has in mind."

His account was queried by fellow Bolton Councillor, Joyce Kellet, who is the vice-chairman of Bolton's planning committee.

She said: "Bolton doesn't have a preferred developer before the plans come to the planning committee.

"As vice-chair of the committee I haven't heard anything about a preferred developer."

Horwich town councillor Cllr Christine Root asked for clarification on the matter.

She said: "I have just heard two different things from Bolton Councillors on this - can we get this clarified as we look like we don't know what is going on?"

The town council then voted to recommend refusal on Hong Kong Ltd's application.