THE news that Bolton’s green belt could be protected from housing developments for the next 20 years has been welcomed across the political sphere. But many homes could still be built at beauty spots like Hulton Park if the government gives developers the go ahead. JOSEPH TIMAN reports.

ALL 13,800 homes needed in the borough during that period can be squeezed into built-up areas, according to the council.

This makes Bolton the only council in Greater Manchester putting no homes on the green belt at all.

The announcement comes as a draft plan showing Greater Manchester’s vision for jobs, homes and the environment until 2037 is published.

Conservative leader David Greenhalgh called the news “fantastic”, saying that his party has campaigned for many years on the subject.

He said: "It is a victory for the environment, for future generations and for Bolton, and shows what can be achieved when politicians listen to one another and to the people they represent and are prepared to work together where there is common ground."

Bolton West MP Chris Green, who has been critical of the delays to the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF), was also pleased with the “positive vision” in the latest draft.

He said: “The plans for high density housing development in the town centre will help reduce congestion because people’s places of work and public transport routes will be on their doorstep."

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Roger Hayes said he would be pleased if the draft is approved, praising the residents and opposition parties who spoke out against the original proposal in 2016.

But despite positivity over housing, three green belt beauty spots have been earmarked for major industrial sites in the revised masterplan, including an expansion of Logistics North in Over Hulton.

These sites, including land west of Wingates and in Chequerbent which featured in the previous proposals, could be used for industrial and warehouse space potentially creating thousands of jobs.

Furthermore, some sites where developers have already applied to build, such as Hulton Park, Horwich Golf Course and Bowland Hey, are also affected by the plans.

Aside from withdrawing all future housing sites from the green belt, the council wants to give Horwich Golf Course and Ditcher’s Farm in Westhoughton the protected green belt status.

The site for a proposed golf course and 1,036 homes at Hulton Park has been taken out of the latest draft, as has Bowlands Hey where more homes could be built.

Although the proposals have changed, planning appeals from developers will still run their course.

A decision over the Hulton Park application by developer giant Peel now rests with Secretary of State James Brokenshire who called in the decision last summer.

Campaign group Hulton Estate Area Residents Together (HEART) have cautiously welcomed the “sentiment” from Bolton Council to take Hulton Park out of the GMSF.

Chairman John Hesketh said: “Hopefully the new GMSF draft will carry some weight with the planning inspector at the public inquiry.”

Bolton’s planning committee initially approved the plans, which received plenty of opposition, on the condition that the site is chosen to host the 2026 Ryder Cup.

Council leader Linda Thomas said she’s always been clear on protecting green belt and stopping overdevelopment and called the decision to take Hulton Park out of the GMSF as “indicative”.

She said: “The fact that we’ve been able to find additional sites [for housing] on brownfield sites means that we’ll be able now to deliver on not building on places like Hulton Park. The caveat is, it will not be our decision at the end of the day it will be down to the minister.

“I hope that he listens like we’ve listened and that he decides that that land can be protected again. It’s a little plea to him now, we’ve done our bit. We will deliver on what the government told us to deliver on housing numbers, we’ve delivered it with our partners, it’s up to him now to deliver on what the people want.”

Cllr David Chadwick, who previously chaired HEART, welcomed the council’s strategy regarding housing but took issue with industrial sites west of Wingates and in Chequerbent.

He said: “I can’t foresee anybody being able to justify the industrial development within the green belt. I do not understand how it can be left in the spatial framework.”