RESIDENTS and councillors in Horwich are preparing to debate the town’s “most significant planning application in decades”.

The long awaited plans for the redevelopment of the Horwich Loco Works site, involving the creation of a new 1,700-house community called Rivington Chase, will be top of the agenda at the next meeting of Horwich Town Council’s planning committee.

The council is expecting such a large number of residents to attend the meeting on Thursday, February 20, that they have moved it from the usual location of the council chamber to the larger St John’s Church Hall in Victoria Road.

The council will decide whether to recommend approval or refusal on the plans which will go before Bolton Council’s planning committee in March.

Leader of the council Cllr Kevan Helsby said: “This is the most significant application in decades for the people of Horwich — so it is important for a good number of them to be able to have a say and the council chamber is not big enough.”

Plans have been formally submitted to Bolton Council by developers Horwich Vision to carry out the £260 million development on the 189-acre brownfield site.

If approved, it is expected to take up to 15 years to complete.

Developers believe the Rivington Chase project could bring an extra £19 million to the local economy as well as creating 1,350 full-time jobs. The new community would also feature 20 acres of employment land and 50 acres of open space, including pedestrian and cycle routes.

There have also been discussions about the potential building of education and healthcare facilities on the site.

The Loco Works site houses the most complete remaining set of railway locomotive workshops in the country and the developers have made assurances that several of those buildings will be preserved, to create a “heritage core” which could be used by the community or as part of a civic space.

Stuart Whittle, chairman of the Horwich Heritage Society, said that while he is pleased with the assurances made by Horwich Vision, he believes there are a lot of issues to be resolved.

He said: “It is great in principle but there are issues as to what can be developed meaningfully, because these buildings will take a lot of money to restore and it is not clear what uses they could have.”

The meeting will begin at 7.15pm and members of the public are welcome to attend. Representatives from Horwich Vision and Bolton Council’s planning department will be present.