THE five-year saga of the Horwich mansions which were ordered to be bulldozed after it was found the developer had built them too big and in the wrong location took another twist this week.

Local Democracy Reporter JOSEPH TIMAN shares the latest.

THE long-running drama surrounding a development of five mansions built in breach of planning regulations has taken yet another turn.

It was announced yesterday that a public inquiry will be held in November after developer Sparkle appealed Bolton Council’s decision back in February to order that all five of the mansions should be demolished.

But if the owners of the five luxury homes are able to settle the matter in advance of the public inquiry, they face having to pay more than a million pounds to demolish two of the properties and reduce the size of another.

They made that offer to Bolton Council to carry out the smaller demolition independently of Sparkle, who it is understood, is no longer involved in their negotiations.

The planning process has been on hold at the request of the homeowners while they tried to reach a compromise agreement with Bolton Council.

The homeowners hope that their offer to demolish two of the houses will be accepted by planning committee as early as this month.

If the planners are agreeable, the homeowners will have to take on the cost of demolition and rebuild themselves.

They say that would be preferable to having to bear the costs of demolishing all five mansions.

In new documents sent to council planners, owners of the Grundy Fold Farm properties – which the council has ordered to be knocked down – have spoken of the “immensely challenging” situation.

The Bolton News understands that the more-than £1m pound bill will be shared between all of the homeowners and, if approved by the planning committee, the work will take at least a year to complete.

In a letter to the local authority, Emery Planning consultant Gareth Salthouse, set out the homeowners’ position.

He said: “It is hoped that this letter clarifies beyond any doubt that the homeowners wish to work with the local planning authority in agreeing a development that satisfies all parties.

“The process has been immensely challenging for the homeowners in terms of the financial and emotional issues involved.”

The council issued an enforcement notice ordering the developer to knock down all the properties last summer but this was put on hold as the company appealed the decision.

This came after the firm asked to retain the houses twice – but the revised plans were refused on both occasions.

In the latest letter from the planning agent, Mr Salthouse said the homeowners would like to avoid the appeals process.

He said: “It is hoped that the revised plans presented by the homeowners provide a mechanism through which matters can now be brought to a satisfactory close and the need for all parties to engage with the Enforcement Appeal can be avoided.

“We understand that this scheme is ‘deliverable’ in commercial and practical terms, and it could be fully implemented within a reasonable timescale.”

In 2016, the council found that some of the houses were a different design, siting and size than what was approved.

The footprint and total floor area were larger and the height of three houses were higher than permitted.

In addition, all of the homes were built away from the exact siting they had approval for.

Planning chiefs told Sparkle Developments that the only acceptable plans would involve selective demolition and re-siting of some of the houses, but the developer stuck with its own plan which was then refused by the planning committee.

Late last year, the homeowners came together, independently of the developer, to make the council a peace offering and broker a deal.

Speaking to The Bolton News back in February, the Grundy Fold Homeowners Association said the new plans meet the council’s requirements.

Earlier this year, Sparkle Developments was said to be “co-operative” with the homeowners in an attempt to find a resolution.

But now, it is understood that the developer is no longer involved in negotiations between the homeowners and the council’s planning department.

Local councillor Andy Morgan, who has met with the homeowners, said he has “every sympathy” for them, but planning law “must be upheld”.

He said: “Some of them have put every penny they have into this development.

“But the fact that it’s going to cost them a lot of money is not a consideration at this stage.

“It’s all about sending a message that if you build something not in accordance with the permission granted, there’s a real possibility you will have to correct it.”

The planning committee will decide whether the homeowners’ latest proposals are acceptable.

If they are not approved, a notice to demolish all the homes will be enforced.

The next planning committee meeting is scheduled for August 22.

If the appeal is not successful, a three-day public inquiry into the enforcement notice for all five houses to be demolished will take place on November 12.

The Bolton News has attempted to contact Sparkle Developments but has not received a response.