GARY Neville has been given the green light to build a luxury home, after councillors defied a "purist" planning office recommendation to reject the ex-footballer's plans.

The former Manchester United star wants to build on what Bolton Council had considered green belt land in Bromley Cross.

The council's planning office had said the application should be refused, dismissing the Sky Sports pundit's claims that the site off Grange Road in fact constituted brownfield land.

However, planning committee members voted unanimously today to approve the proposal, saying that they did not consider the land to be within the green belt.

Bromley Cross councillor Norman Critchley said he would "defend the green belt to the end", but did not see that there was any green belt that demanded protection in this case.

Cllr Critchley said: "I have lived in area since 1977 and have been a councillor since 1988. I do know the area very well and have often been to parties at the bottom of that road."

He added: "The way we look at it is that if the house is in keeping with the other developments in the area, it would be allowed.

"It isn't a series of five or six houses, it is one large house which doesn't replicate the style of the others but also isn't completely modern like some that come before this committee."

Mike Ralph, speaking on behalf of planning consultants Zerum, said that the new home will "complement" the existing properties in the area and had not provoked any objections from neighbours.

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Cllr Nick Peel, cabinet member for environmental services, said that he had been "50/50" on the decision before hearing Cllr Critchley's local perspective.

He said: "The officers have come down on the purist approach and I think we should respect and applaud that.

"Our starting point should always be that green belt should be protected.

"This comes down to an argument of principle, whether or not we take the purist approach of protection of the green belt in all circumstances or take a more subjective view."

Cllr Bob Allen added that it was "common sense" to approve the plans as there were houses all along Grange Road.

The report from the council’s planning office had said: “It is concluded that the harm to the green belt by the proposed development by reason of its inappropriateness is not clearly outweighed by other considerations. The very special circumstances needed to justify the development do not exist.”

Mr Neville's ambitious home-building plans have made headlines in the past, with one futuristic design in Harwood likened to a home on children’s TV series Teletubbies.

Those controversial proposals, which were subject to a lengthy planning battle, were later abandoned.