THE sale of a field earmarked for housing has been blocked following hundreds of objections from residents.

Pickup's Fields in Horwich is set to be sold by the council to Bolton At Home which wants to build 48 houses at the site.

Deputy leader Martyn Cox authorised selling the land at Singleton Avenue but the decision was "called in".

This means it will not go through until it is debated at a scrutiny committee and could be subject to a vote by all councillors before a final decision is made in a few months time.

Lib Dem leader Roger Hayes called in the decision at a confidential meeting yesterday morning. He said: “People in Horwich want it returned as open space – it’s a very emotive issue. The feeling in Horwich is very strong."

The deputy leader said authorising the sale, which is understood to be in the region of half a million pounds, was a "really difficult decision".

The grassy land is next to a protected recreation site but this specific spot was earmarked for housing by the local authority years ago.

Cllr Cox said building on Pickup Fields would help protect the green belt.

He said: "We know there’s a lot of opposition to it but it’s an allocated site and if we don’t use our allocated sites it puts the green belt under pressure. Developers will look to build elsewhere and make the point that the council isn’t building on its own allocated land."

Horwich councillor Richard Silvester will be lobbying his Labour colleagues to try and stop the sale.

He objected to the application for the 48 houses at the site which is due to be discussed by the planning committee.

He said: "I am disappointed that the Conservative deputy leader decided to approve the sale of the land at his meeting and I hope in due course he will change his mind. The amount of objections which the public have made to this important piece of green space land being saved has been overwhelming’.

Horwich First town councillor Steven Chadwick described the move to block the sale as "fantastic", saying it is even more important than refusing planning permission.

He said: “That’s what we have been calling for. If anything it’s more important than the outcome of the planning application because if they don’t dispose of the land, Bolton At Home won’t be able to build on it."

The decision will be discussed at a scrutiny committee in seven or eight weeks time.