IN reply to the recent letter by my learned colleague and fellow member of the Horwich First Community Group, Craig Rotherham; unfortunately Craig has expressed some personal views which are not factual.

He blames Bolton Council for Horwich Golf Course being at risk from housing development by the Peel Group. This is not true.

Bolton Council a few years ago allocated sufficient land throughout the borough as required by the previous Conservative / Liberal Democrat coalition government for the amount of housing which was set down by them and the ‘Allocations Plan’ for the borough was accepted by the Government at the time.

Craig is therefore wrong to say that Bolton Council does not have a realistic plan. It does and it was approved by the Government.

Craig should know that it is not Bolton Council who builds houses, rather developers and many of them own and are sitting on brown field sites in the Allocations Plan document and are purposefully not developing them under the argument that they are not financially viable to develop, ie, there is not enough profit in it for them to develop.

They have a big incentive to do this as well which came from the last coalition Government and not Bolton Council. The last coalition Government relaxed planning laws making it much easier for developers to build on green field land and sites such as Horwich Golf Course which are classed as Protected Open Space.

The coalition Government allowed Planning Inspectors under changes to look at the total amount of housing built in a borough based upon the required amount which the Government had set down and decide if the allocation is being met.

This was the major change which has now caused the problem of sites such as Horwich Golf Course coming under threat. This situation is occurring right across the country now and not just in Bolton.

Therefore developers are choosing in many cases to sit on brown field urban sites which they say are less profitable to develop and instead going for green field sites where greater profits can be made. A good example which Craig should know about in Horwich is the Swallowfield site which has sat undeveloped for years.

Regarding a Neighbourhood Plan for Horwich; I happen to agree with Craig that Horwich Town Council should have several years ago, when it was first debated, seized the opportunity to implement a Neighbourhood Plan but all parties on the town council at that time chose not to because there was not enough information about how one could be implemented or the benefits. I was not a member of the town council at that time.

I think it is excellent that the town council changed its mind and that the process is presently under way which I campaigned for and it is true that a Neighbourhood Plan can identify areas where the town council would not wish development to occur however it is highly questionable if such a document could actually stop development, even if it were in place right now and had identified Horwich Golf Course as a site which the town council believes should not be developed because of the changes which the Conservative / Liberal Democrat government made by giving Planning Inspectors wider powers to overturn local authority Planning Committee decisions on appeal.

I look forward to Craig’s support in getting Bolton Council’s Planning Committee to refuse any application that comes forward by the Peel Group in relation to Horwich Golf Course.

Let us not forget that Horwich Golf Club Committee members decided to sell it to Peel in the first place and perhaps we should wonder what the incentive was for doing so?

Cllr Richard Silvester

Horwich North East Ward and member of the Horwich First Community Group