CALLS for a town’s independence have resurfaced after plans to build 48 houses on a former playing field in Horwich have been given the green light.

The controversial housing development on land behind Singleton Avenue, known locally as Pickup’s Fields, can now go ahead after a government-appointed inspector overturned Bolton Council’s decision this week.

Town councillor Steven Chadwick first stood for election five years ago to oppose any developments on the land which was owned by Horwich Urban District Council until Bolton Council “inherited” it in 1974.

He said: “I would like to thank the people of Lever Park and Horwich. We did our best to stop this. Personally, it was the entire reason I stood for town council five years ago – but we’ve lost.

“It is clear that no Bolton Council-owned land in Horwich is now safe from development regardless of which party is in power at Bolton.

“Therefore, the only ways to protect our remaining playing fields, bowling greens and key buildings, is either for Horwich to leave this borough, or for Bolton Council to return all remaining Horwich assets to the ownership of Horwich Town Council.”

Cllr Chadwick helped set up online community group Horwich First which has established itself as a force in the town fighting against new developments.

The Facebook page spawned a political party, Horwich and Blackrod First Independents (HBFI), which now dominates Horwich Town Council.

The party also has two representatives elected to Bolton Council.

A HBFI spokesman said: “The decision by the Planning Inspectorate to allow the appeal by Bolton at Home is very disappointing.

“HBFI, Horwich Town Council, Horwich residents and Horwich businesses acted together and did their utmost to object and stop this unwanted development of one of the last remaining informal green spaces in the town.

“The objections led to Horwich Town Council and Bolton Council Planning Committee refusals of planning permission.

“Despite these refusals, the fate of Pickup’s Field was decided due to one reason – the inclusion in the Bolton Allocations Plan in 2014 by the Labour administration at Bolton Council.

“Bolton at Home say these homes will be subject to a local lettings policy, Bolton Council must ensure this is followed.

“Having lost this appeal because Pickup’s was included in the Allocations Plan, Bolton Council, under the Conservative administration, must rigorously oppose applications not included in the Allocations Plan.”

Labour councillor Richard Silvester, who represents Horwich North East, opposed earmarking Pickup’s Fields for housing five years ago.

He said: “I am absolutely gutted as a ward councillor for all of the residents who fought against both the selling off of this playing field by the Conservative council and the planning application, which I spoke against at the planning committee meeting and which we managed to get refused.

“To me, the loss of this public open green space is unacceptable and I hope in Horwich it stops now.”

Housing association Bolton At Home will offer most of the houses for “affordable” rent with shared-ownership available for eight of the properties.

Director of development and growth Dominic Conway welcomed the decision by the Planning Inspectorate.

He said: “These homes will help to meet local housing needs in Horwich where we know there is significant demand for affordable homes aimed at local people.”