A NEW £6.8 million health super-centre will be built on the site of the current Horwich Leisure Centre, The Bolton News can reveal.

Proposals would see Horwich's three existing GP surgeries move to a new multi-purpose facility.

In March, Bolton Council agreed plans to knock down the current leisure centre and build a new £7 million sports facility on the multi-storey car park opposite.

The initial plan was that the space where the current centre lies could be sold to a housing developer, but after receiving the approach from the three practices, a new health centre will now be built.

The three practices — Kildonan House, Pike View and the Bolton Community Practice — have received an award of £6.8 million from NHS England, the second largest in the body’s first round of funding across the country.

Dr Anne Talbot, clinical director at Bolton Community Practice in Chorley New Road, said: “There will be significant and unique challenges to the provision of primary care to the Horwich residents over the next five years due to very significant population growth — as a result of approved residential development.

“While this is a unique challenge, it also presents a unique opportunity to provide a healthcare facility that is fit for the long-term future needs of the population and enables the provision of improved and enhanced primary care services to the residents of Horwich.”

A number of planned housing developments — including the 1,700-home Rivington Chase project starting at the former Horwich Loco Works site — will mean that thousands more residents will be making Horwich their home in the near future.

The plan aims to cater for that growing population’s health needs as well as offer a greater range of services to residents.

The three practices currently serve a population of just under 25,000 patients and are all working with full premises that the doctors say are “not fit for 21st century health care”.

Dr Zaheda Atcha, GP at Kildonan House in Ramsbottom Road, said: “We have a fantastic opportunity now in Horwich to work closely with the council to develop a plan for the whole Horwich Leisure Centre site rather than developing our schemes in isolation.

“Having the three GP practices and the leisure centre on the same site, as we are proposing, will help us join up health and wellbeing services in the future which can only be good for the residents of Horwich.”

It is hoped that the new state-of-the art facility will allow the centre to offer a greater range of training opportunities for healthcare workers and more placements.

Dr Rashmnita Malhotra, GP at Pike View in Albert Street, added: "This is an exciting new venture for Pike View and will provide our patients with the modernised premises we have been looking for along with extended clinical primary care services for the whole of Horwich."

Bolton Council leader Cllr Cliff Morris said the plan represented a “great idea” for the people of Horwich.

He added: “This is very good news for the Horwich.

“The next stage is for the plans of what the new centre could look like to be drawn up and we will be creating a new plan for the site that includes them.”

While the new health centre and leisure facility will be created as part of an overall masterplan, they will remain as separate projects.

The proposals will mean that the leisure centre project may take longer to be completed as the overall plan is now more complex.

The Horwich First community group had previously contacted GPs in the town to warn them about the challenges that could arrive with developments such as Rivington Chase.

Group member and newly-elected independent Horwich Town councillor Marie Brady said it was “fantastic” to hear about the new centre plans.

She said: “Initially, the doctors didn’t have all the information about the developments so we contacted them to make them aware of what was coming.

“Hopefully that has helped them to prepare a good case for the funding and I am delighted to hear what they have achieved.

“Horwich has been promised a new health centre for a long time so it is absolutely fantastic news for the residents.

"This is a marvellous day for every single person in Horwich and we are proud to have been a part of this."