TOWN councillors said the time is right for people to “move on” as they recommended approval for a £260 million plan to build 1,700 new homes on a Horwich heritage site.

The plans for the old Horwich Loco Works, which could also feature 20 acres of employment land and 50 acres of open space, including pedestrian and cycle routes, were discussed at a meeting of Westhoughton Town Council.

Regeneration of the 189-acre brownfield site — which has an engineering history dating back 125 years — is expected to create 1,350 full-time jobs and 400 positions during the predicted 10-15-year construction process.

Councillors from Westhoughton, consultees on the project, said the impact on the town would be minimal, but some voiced dissatisfaction at the site’s engineering history being bulldozed.

Cllr Colette Harkin said: “I agree about the site’s history but we have got to move on and look to the future now.”

Cllr Jack Speight accused developers Horwich Vision — a partnership between Orbit Developments and the Bluemantle Group — of proposing to “demolish” 125 years of history.

He said: “We are talking about a huge part of local history being knocked down to make way for these houses.

“I’ve got no issue with this from a planning perspective, but I wonder where the people living in these houses are going to work, given that offices are not a huge part of the plans.

“Horwich services could be stretched by this and I feel sorry for the history society losing this site.”

A spokesman for Horwich Vision said Horwich Heritage had been consulted on the project and they had been pleased to see certain parts of the works preserved in the plans as a “heritage core”.

Westhoughton mayor Cllr Christopher Peacock said: “The obvious issue for Westhoughton would be the increase in trafffic that will be related to this work.

“Some roads linking Middlebrook to Westhoughton can be used as cut throughs, such as Church Lane and Wingates Lane, to Middlebrook.

“There is not much else that affects us directly.”

A Horwich Heritage spokesman said: “In terms of people from Westhoughton, the number of people travelling from here to the site for employment will be limited and vice versa.

“We are also implementing a travel plan for the period when all the work will be going on there.”

Horwich Town Council is set for one of the largest meetings in its history when it debates the plan at St John’s Church Hall in Victoria Road on February 20.

Plans for the “new town” — named Rivington Chase — were unveiled in October, with an official application submitted to Bolton Council on January 20.

A decision is expected to be made by the council’s planning committee at their meeting on March 6.