HUNDREDS of protesters issued a plea to town hall bosses to save the Hulton Park Estate from development.

Around 250 campaigners gathered at the entrance to the historic estate this morning, as the councillors who will decide its future conducted a site visit.

Property giant Peel Holdings is behind a £240 million plan to build more than 1,000 homes and a championship golf course, intended to host the Ryder Cup, on the land.

Julia Hulton, a descendant of the famous family that lived on the estate for centuries, joined the protest organised by the Hulton Estate Area Residents Together (HEART) group.

She said: “I remember from years ago the beautiful woodland, the trees, the lake, and the wildflowers.

“I would love the estate to stay as something that is very much for the community.

“It is a beautiful treasure and it should remain that way.

“I used to come here on day visits with my father, but I now think that I didn’t spend as much time here as I should have done.

“I hope that other families will still have the chance to enjoy it in the future.”

Bolton Council’s planning committee was due to make a decision on whether the controversial development can go ahead at a meeting on March 1.

That meeting has now been postponed to a later date, but the councillors went ahead with a site visit today.

On arrival at the Newbrook Road entrance to the estate, they were greeted with chants of ‘we shall not be moved’ from the gathered crowd.

Since the plans were first unveiled last year, they have drawn widespread opposition from the Over Hulton and Westhoughton communities.

HEART supporter Lynne Fearick said: “We are doing this for the next generation, for our grandchildren.

“Infrastructure is the problem. There is already a shortage of doctors and you can’t get kids the school places they want. I really worry about what could happen if they let this development go ahead.”

Dorothy Syddall added: “The estate is green belt and it is our lungs. We don’t need a golf course and we certainly don’t need any more homes – the infrastructure won’t be able to cope with it.”

In a rare move earlier this week, billionaire Peel boss John Whittaker issued a statement on the Hulton Park plans.

He said: “Hulton Park is a crumbling treasure in desperate need of major investment.

"At Peel, we want to restore the park and build world-class golfing, tourism and community facilities, giving the area a real boost."

He added: "Rescuing it from decay is an amazing chance to invest in the future, creating new opportunities for young people and a positive legacy for future generations.”

HEART secretary Sandra Hesketh said she was 'incredibly proud' of the turnout for the demonstration.

She said: “We would not be here if we did not think it would make a difference to the people who are going to make the decision.”

Planning committee chair, Cllr Hanif Darvesh, addressed the crowd of protestors, saying that the purpose of the site visit was to allow committee members to ‘consider the constraints’ of the site.

He added that objectors would have the opportunity to state their case at the town hall when the postponed meeting is held.

Former Bolton West MP Julie Hilling said: “It is amazing to see the amount of support out here today to fight against this dreadful planning application.

“I am sure that Bolton Council will turn down the application. We need our green belt.

“However, now that the rules have changed, my fear is that the Government would overturn that decision.

“We all recognise that this plan is just wrong.

“It is a vanity project. Nobody around here will be able to afford these proposed houses.”

Toby Hewitt, the newly-elected Conservative councillor for Hulton, said that the estate must be protected as part of the rewritten Greater Manchester Spatial Framework housing blueprint.

He added: “The people of this area want trees, not tees.

“There is such a strength of feeling on this issue, which is clear from the number of people who have turned up this morning.

“I hope that the planning committee will take account of that.

“More importantly, we would not have to be out here if the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework had been sorted out.

“It is for the local councils and Andy Burnham to get a grip of this issue and make sure areas like Hulton Park are protected from development.”

Peel's plan also includes a new luxury hotel with spa and conference facilities, to be built on the site of the former Hulton Hall which was demolished in the 1950s.