CAMPAIGNERS are “ecstatic” as plans to build 300 homes at a golf course have been thrown out by a government inspector.

An appeal by development giant Peel L&P relating to its proposed development at Horwich Golf Club has been dismissed.

The plan, which was unanimously refused by Bolton Council last year, was opposed by members of Stock Residents’ Association who made their views known to the inspector after it went to public inquiry last month.

Chairman Malcolm Harrison told The Bolton News that he felt emotional and was “very pleased” about the outcome.

He said: “It’s really pleasing that the inspector recognised the value of the site. The way it’s used for leisure proposals, the amenity value and protecting the rural landscape.”

Planning inspector John Felgate agreed with the residents, saying the land is part of a “valued landscape” in his 18-page report published yesterday.

He recognised that the housing, around a third of which would be affordable, would have “significant benefits”, including a “moderate” economic boost, highways improvements and biodiversity enhancements.

He also said the development would not cause any “unacceptable” harm to local roads because added traffic would be mitigated by planned improvements to the Beehive roundabout.

However, Mr Felgate concluded that the harm to the local area would be “substantial”, highlighting the impact it would have on the character and quality of the landscape.

He said: “The harm to the landscape, and to the setting of the town, would in my view be serious and substantial. Moreover, this would amount to environmental harm that would go to the heart of one of the NPPF’s principal objectives for sustainable development, that of protecting and enhancing the natural environment. Taking in all the relevant circumstances, I conclude that this adverse environmental impact would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the sum of the identified benefits.”

Councillors on the planning committee unanimously refused permission for the application to build up to 300 homes in June 2018 but the decision was appealed by Peel L&P soon after.

Mr Harrison said that everyone involved in the campaign to stop the housing development are “very pleased” that their hard work has paid off.

But he expects the developer to resubmit new “scaled back” plans in the next 12 months.

He said: “We are pragmatic. We recognise it won’t go away. We are not against development if it’s done in a way that has limited impact. But we’ve got a lot of time to see what Peel say it could be used for.”

Peel L&P, which now owns the land, signed an agreement for Horwich Golf Club to continue playing at the site until 2023.

Speaking at the public inquiry, Emery Planning’s associate director, John Coxon, told the planning inspector that the developer intends to continue to promote the site for housing even if the appeal is dismissed.

Now Philip Rothwell, planning director at Peel L&P, says the company will “carefully review” the decision letter before considering its next steps.

He said: “We’re disappointed with this decision as our plans for Horwich Golf Club would bring much-needed housing to the area, around a third of which would be affordable, as well as contributions to education, transport and the community.”

The land off Victoria Road is designated as Other Protected Open Land (OPOL) which means it does not benefit from the same protections as green belt sites.

However, a bid to put the site in the green belt resulted in it being included in Bolton’s submission to the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.

This means that, if the latest draft of the region’s masterplan for homes, jobs and the environment is approved, Horwich Golf Club would have green belt status.

Labour leader Linda Thomas described the move, which took place under her leadership of the council, as “very important”. She said: “I’m delighted because it now means that Horwich Golf Club can be accepted in the green belt in the Spatial Framework. That will protect it even more when the Spatial Framework is decided and the ink is dry.”

Mr Harrison thanked the local authority, which was represented by Jonathan Easton at the public inquiry, for its efforts to defend the committee’s decision.

Horwich North East councillor Kevin McKeon said he was delighted to hear about the news. He said: “It’s a triumph for the Stocks Residents’ Association who worked so hard and so effectively to protect the golf course for the community of Horwich and I’m very pleased that Cllr Silvester and I were able to support them along the way.”

Horwich town councillor Steven Chadwick, was equally pleased, describing the news as “fantastic”. He said: “This is a great day for Horwich. Well done to everybody involved in this fight to save Horwich’s open green space and a big thank you to everybody at Stocks Residents’ Association who have led a marvellous campaign. The hours and effort they have put in has been nothing short of outstanding. It is surely right for the inspector to respect the local democratic decision, the plans were unanimously rejected by Horwich Town Council, the plans were then also rejected by Bolton MBC as the planning authority, the inspector has now, correctly in my opinion, upheld that decision.”