DEVELOPERS are using councillors’ reluctance to allow housing to be built in a Horwich field against the local authority as they try to justify building in the countryside, the council leader claims.

Cllr David Greenhalgh told The Bolton News that he has already had the controversy over Pickup’s Fields, which was earmarked for housing by the council years ago, quoted back to him in meetings with developers.

The Conservative chief has argued that if the council does not allow houses to be built on land it has allocated for housing, it would struggle to defend future decisions it makes to not build in the countryside.

He said: “Every developer across the whole of this region will be quoting this decision in appeal after appeal for green belt land, saying, ‘Bolton can’t even deliver on their own allocations policy. They can’t even deliver on the land they put aside so we need to develop into the green belt.’”

The comments came as councillors voted against selling the land behind Singleton Avenue to housing association Bolton At Home which wants to built 48 houses at the site which has been in the council’s housing allocation plans since 2014.

The planning committee refused to grant planning permission for the housing development, although the applicant could appeal the decision.

Deputy leader Martyn Cox will have the final say on whether to sell Pickup’s Fields to Bolton At Home for around £500,000 later this month.

The decision was returned to him with a recommendation, supported by the majority of councillors, not to sell the land and keep it as a green space for the community of Horwich.

The sale initially stalled because Lib Dem leader Roger Hayes called in the decision at a private meeting with the deputy leader.

Local Labour councillor Richard Silvester spoke against the housing development at a committee meeting and urged councillors to vote against selling the land last month.

The Horwich North East councillor said he opposed including the land in the housing allocation document when his party were control.

The deputy leader praised the previous administration for not allocating any green belt land for housing in the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework but criticised its stance on Pickup’s Field.

He said: “I don’t have any problems saying that the Labour group got a good deal. It’s a pity now that they are not supporting it in Singleton Avenue.”

Cllr Cox will make a final decision on whether to sell the land at the next deputy leader’s portfolio meeting on September 17.