GREENBELT sites in Bolton could be spared if the government agrees key population figures.

Cllr Martin Donaghy revealed that 14,200 homes could be built in Bolton, without needing any greenbelt land but to do this the government needs to agree lower than expected population growth figures.

However, the government is said to be unhappy with the predictions released in July and is consulting on them.

Cllr Donaghy, executive member for strategic housing and planning, said: "The 14,200 means we don’t have to touch greenbelt in Bolton.”

These homes would be agreed as part of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, which sets out land allocation for housing and employment in the region for the next 20 years.

In July the Office for National Statistics published population growth figures for Greater Manchester which called the plans into question.

Minutes of the latest meeting of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), which is putting together the plan show the ONS figures revised the housing supply need down from 211,000 to 153,000.

Cllr Donaghy said 14,200 homes were planned for Bolton with the revised figures and sites did not include any greenbelt.

He has warned that without the plan in place any sites in Bolton, could be targets for developers.

Cllr Donaghy said: “What I’m trying to get across is the more this is delayed the more vulnerable we could be.

“What happens is because we haven’t got a five year housing supply in place at the moment it means any sites in Bolton could be potentially developed on a speculative basis. Whereas if we have the five year plan that can’t happen.”

A draft proposal was first issued in 2016 but caused outcry from the public over the amount of greenbelt land allocated for building on.

Since then the spatial framework has been in the process of being redrawn and held up repeatedly.

The framework is being held up again and the worry is the government consultation could lead to the figures being revised up once again shifting the housing quota for the region.

Minister of State for Housing, Kit Malthouse MP, said: “We must tackle the historic shortage of new homes and restore the dream of ownership for the next generation.

“To do this we must build more and better homes, faster and are committed to delivering 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.”

A spokesperson for the GMCA said: “Last week the government launched a public consultation regarding proposals to update planning practice guidance on housing need assessment. This examines how housing figures are calculated across the country, and also proposes clarification on a range of national planning policy.

“We will assess its potential to impact upon our ongoing work developing the rewritten Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.

“We have made substantial progress towards agreeing the spatial framework. However, the government's uncertainty around its housing figures and how they are calculated continues to affect our decision making and compromises our ability to finalise our strategic planning in Greater Manchester. We still aim to publish within the next couple of months.”