A LARGE part of the historic Smithills estate is to be sold for £3.5 million.
Bolton Council bosses have agreed terms for the 1,700-acre plot to the west of Smithills Dean Road to be transferred to conservation charity The Woodland Trust.
The deal will see town hall chiefs spend £500,000 on the Grade I listed Smithills Hall, which will remain council property, with the rest of the money spread across other council projects.
A Bolton Council spokesman said: “The council has the clear objective of trying to sell the majority of the Smithills Estate including the estate infrastructure such as unadopted roads, the spring water supply system, bridges and culverts.
“Therefore, in 2013, the council entered into negotiations with the Woodland Trust for the land and infrastructure.
“The council has now agreed the provisional terms for a sale of the freehold title to the non-core area of the Smithills Estate.
“Land to be sold includes land subject to existing farm tenancies, woodland and the public car park at Barrow Bridge.”
Neither Bolton Council or The Woodland Trust were willing to confirm the value of the sale, citing it as confidential information.
But The Bolton News understands The Woodland Trust is spending about £3.5 million on the venture.
The price includes ongoing management and associated costs, not just the amount paid outright for the land.
Alistair Crosby, regional manager at The Woodland Trust said: “We have now agreed the overall terms for a sale of the freehold title to the majority of the estate excluding Smithills Hall and the land surrounding it.
“The Trust has a good track record of working with landowners and local people to help create vibrant, accessible areas where people can engage with and learn about nature.”
Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Roger Hayes, for Smithills, said the move was positive as the council had not been properly maintaining the land recently, due to a lack of resources.
He added: “At the moment, they have agreed terms, but it is hoped that the deal goes through. I think this will be a good thing for the community.
“The council was no longer able to maximise the potential of this land, mainly because of budget cuts.
“Not only does it give a substantial amount of money to the council, but we believe it will now be managed in a way that is more sympathetic to the environment than has been done by the council.
“We need to raise the capital receipts and this is a sensible way of doing it I believe.”