BOLTON has thousands of empty properties — but only big developers can solve the town’s housing crisis, according to a leading councillor.

Despite thousands of empty properties, Bolton Council, under government guidelines, has to boost its housing stock by 600 extra homes every year.

Cllr David Chadwick says the council does not have the money to bring the empty homes back into use, so the only way to provide enough additional housing is if large firms build houses and flats.

His comments came during a Westhoughton Town Council discussion on the future of Roscoe’s Farm, which is earmarked for a 99-property housing development.

Cllr Chadwick, for Westhoughton South, argued that, under the last Labour government, developers had to target brownfield sites and rundown homes first.

He claimed if more of these properties were given a new lease of life, it would fulfil eight years of the council’s housing obligations without any further development being needed.

Cllr Chadwick also said Bolton Council has only been able to deal with 50 of the empty homes in the last two years, which are made up of Bolton at Home properties and private houses, as “a priority”.

He added: “The only people that have money are the developers. Peel Holdings owns that land and it has got the money and the clout to throw at it.”

The main reasons for homes being left empty is because the owner cannot afford to upgrade them, or is unwilling to sell because of the housing market.

A council spokesman said: “The number of empty homes in Bolton is falling. We had just under 4,000 empty homes at the end of March, compared to just under 5,000 for the same period last year.

“Of these 1,000 properties, 50 were classified as a priority — the council carries out targeted interventions for empty houses which are a priority based on factors such as the length of time they have been empty and their condition.

“We don’t have the remit to bring all empty properties back into use.”

Cllr Chadwick added that it would be hard to oppose a proposal for Roscoe’s Farm, which is in the council’s housing allocation plan.

Peel Land and Property own the land and has consulted the council over plans to transform it into a 99-house estate.

Westhoughton Town Council said the plan constituted “over-development” at a meeting in March.