A GRASSROOTS plan that could help shape the future of a community for years to come is making progress as planning consultants have been appointed to help lead the project.

Over Hulton Neighbourhood Forum (OHNF) has tasked Troy Planning and Design with the job and consultation could begin by May.

The firm has been involved in creating more than 20 Neighbourhood Plans nationwide, but this will be its first in Greater Manchester.

Neighbourhood Plans were introduced by the 2011 Localism Act and are intended to give people a greater say over the areas they live in.

Managing director Troy Hayes said: “The take up hasn’t been huge in the Manchester area. Urban areas have been slow on take up of the Neighbourhood Plan.”

Government grants of up to £17,000 are available for Neighbourhood Forums which spend most of the money on professional help.

Once finalised Over Hulton’s blueprint must be approved by Bolton Council before going out to a local referendum.

Unlike Horwich and Blackrod town councils, which are also working on their own plans, Over Hulton created a Neighbourhood Forum because it is not a parish.

Mr Hayes explained that the plan must be created in conformity with the council’s own plans and can be reviewed when the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework is released.

He said: “The Spatial Framework breeds a lot of uncertainty for local authorities and neighbourhood planning groups.”

Following a meeting with residents in September, OHNF will do a similar survey for businesses.