BOLTON Council will draw up its own alternative plans to protect the green belt as fears that the long-awaited Greater Manchester’s masterplan for housing, jobs and the environment will fall through after years of delays.

An agreement signed by the Lib Dems, UKIP and two hyper-local independent groups which keeps the Conservatives in control of the council for another year commits to producing a local plan in consultation with residents.

Town hall officers will soon start the long process of designing a new local plan in case the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) is not adopted.

Leader David Greenhalgh said the council is still supportive of the latest draft of the GMSF published last year – but he fears another borough may pull out.

He said: “We still remain in support of it because we still think Bolton has a very good deal going forward compared to other local authorities.

“But if another authority voted it down, and it only takes one other authority, then the whole GMSF fails.

“We’re then back to square one and if we don’t have a local plan to fall back on, then we become vulnerable to green belt developers going to appeal.

“If we haven’t got a local plan to support a five-year supply, then we are vulnerable to lose green belt on appeal.

“Bolton has voted on numerous occasions unanimously in support of the GMSF. There’s support in Bolton for it. What we’re doing is a precaution in case other authorities decided to veto it and it becomes an issue politically.”

Several decisions to refuse planning permission for major developments in protected countryside spots made by Bolton Council have been overturned.

Planning inspectors have often made reference to the local authority lacking proof that enough houses will be built in the borough over the next five years.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham promised a “radical rewrite” of the controversial GMSF which he published in January 2019 after years of delays.

No green belt land in Bolton was earmarked for housing in the new document although some protected land was allocated for industrial developments.

But the latest draft of the GMSF has caused controversy in other boroughs in Greater Manchester which have been asked to give up more green belt land.

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) announced a second public consultation would take place after the local elections in May which have since been cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis.

A GMCA spokesman said: “The GMSF is a strategic plan for the whole city-region, and is part of a shared commitment to ensuring that growth benefits all of our people and places.

“As well as the GMSF, local authorities are also responsible for preparing their own detailed local plans. Any alternative local plan for Bolton would therefore need to comply with the relevant legislation and procedures, including consultation and public examination, before being adopted.

“This GMSF timetable is being revised given the current coronavirus pandemic, having originally been scheduled for consultation this summer following the local elections that were due to take place in May. A revised timescale for consultation will be published as soon as possible.”