TWO Westhoughton developments are in the spotlight this week. JOSEPH TIMAN and HELENA VESTY report.

THE case to build 174 homes at Bowlands Hey will be heard at a public inquiry next week, but half of the council’s reasons for refusal have been scrapped.

The planning committee rejected the second phase of the plans last summer, but the decision was appealed by developer Bellway.

Members were concerned about pressures on school places, health care and roads, but planning officers have now dropped these arguments.

Instead, they will focus on the concentration of developments in the area and its impact on the landscape’s character.

They say there is now a projected surplus in local primary school capacity, even when taking new developments into account.

But Westhoughton has a high level of demand for secondary school places, which has led councillors to warn of school expansions not meeting future demands.

Green Meadows resident Alan Riley was “extremely concerned” about the council’s approach to the inquiry.

He said: “These primary school children are going to move to secondary schools and we already know there’s a problem in Westhoughton with secondary schools. Where are these children going to go?”

He also wanted to know why the traffic and parking objection has been lifted.

The former planning consultant explained how street parking constrains highway width causing congestion.

He added: “What we are doing here with all these developments – like Aldi, the 129 houses – we are adding to the problem with out coming up with the solution.”

The council did not explain why this reason for refusal was scrapped, but confirmed that the decision was taken in consultation with the chairman of the planning committee.

A spokesman said: “We will be putting a robust argument forward against the development.”

The local authority will also refer to the revised draft of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework in which Bowlands Hey has been removed as a potential site for housing.

Meanwhile, an application to build houses in Westhoughton has been extended by 22 homes, making 128 houses in total.

The additional houses were unanimously rejected at a Westhoughton Town Council meeting on Monday.

The original application to build 106 homes on the former farmland, known as Roscoe’s Farm, was launched in 2015. The plan for the three and four bed homes was controversial from the start.

It was rejected by Westhoughton Town Council on the grounds of lacking infrastructure and disturbance to the surrounding environment, which includes a local nature reserve.

The application was later accepted by Bolton Council by a narrow margin of 11 votes to nine. The 2015 permission is due to expire on May 2 this year, construction on the site, off Bolton Road, has not yet begun.

Permission for the additional houses would extend the expiry date for the developers to begin work.

Westhoughton councillors condemned the updated application and repeated their concerns earlier this week, saying the town is “crying out” for starter homes, not three and four bed houses.

Councillor Bernadette Eckersley-Fallon said: “We need affordable housing, we need starter homes.”

Councillors added that young families in Westhoughton are having to move away from their home town in order to find more appropriate housing.

Cllr Eckersley-Fallon later said that schools, doctors and dentists in the town are all under pressure already. She said: “We are being bombarded with developments in Westhoughton, quite considerably. We’re in desperate need of infrastructure.”

“I’m not exaggerating, we are at breaking point.”

“I travel through Westhoughton every single day, you’re queueing up Bolton Road.

“It’s down to Bolton Council to put up a fight and say to developers: “You’re going to have to put in the infrastructure for the residents.””

Cllr David Chadwick also said: “The infrastructure is not there. Developers come along and want to build on small sections of land.

“They avoid paying for infrastructure by doing it piecemeal.”

The homes will be built on a greenfield site, previously a farm.

Cllr Chadwick added: “Developers see it as an opportunity to increase their profits.”

Councillor Ryan Battersby said: “We should be supporting our local farmers.”

The land is owned by Peel Investments (North) Ltd and will now be developed by Miller Homes.