BOLTON could be facing a building bonanza after a new report revealed the town has the potential for 8,500 new homes across its brownfield sites.

Last week saw Prime Minister Boris Johnson vow to fix long-standing economic problems by promising a £5bn “new deal” to build homes and infrastructure.

Under what Mr Johnson dubbed “project speed,” planning laws would also be streamlined to encourage building with plans to cut the normal planning process for builders who want to demolish and rebuild vacant residential and commercial buildings as homes.

A brownfield site is an area that has been used before and tends to be disused or derelict land. Such sites are usually abandoned areas in towns and cities which have been used previously for industrial and commercial purposes

The PM’s announcement is potentially great news for developers looking to invest in Bolton, where according to research released by Edaroth, a subsidiary of multi-disciplinary consultancy Atkins, there are 151 brownfield sites covering an area of 528 acres, giving a potential yield of 8,586 homes.

A new report, entitled Unlocking The Greater Manchester Housing Challenge, identified over 1,500 brownfield sites across Greater Manchester’s ten metropolitan boroughs which could be developed to deliver at least 119,000 of the 201,000 new homes target set out in the Greater Manchester 2019-2024 Housing Strategy.

Edaroth’s research reveals that Manchester City Council leads the way with 527 brownfield sites which could be developed to provide 61,000 new homes, while Salford has brownfield space for at least 24,000 dwellings.

Rochdale and Bolton have 151 brownfield sites each, but Bolton’s sites cover an area of 528 acres meaning it could yield 8,586 homes compared to Rochdale’s 311 acres, which could potentially yield 5,348.

The scale of under-utilised brownfield land also provides an opportunity to meet and exceed the strategy’s 50,000 affordable housing target – of which 30,000 would be made available as social housing – and eradicate the housing waiting list which stood at 99,898 in 2019.

According to the report, Bolton’s social housing waiting list was 24,382 as of 2018, second only to Oldham where the figure stood at 25,357.

The report also reveals that local authority-owned housing stock has fallen from 263,571 to 60,276 since 1994, a 77% decrease, and calls for local authorities to build more homes on brownfield sites to help deliver social, environmental and economic benefits in the heart of existing communities.

Mark Powell, Edaroth managing director, said: “While the Greater Manchester Combined Authority has a clear housing strategy in place, there is still a need to accelerate plans to provide affordable homes where people want to live, work and prosper.

“Much of the brownfield land in Greater Manchester is located within existing communities with better than average access to schools, healthcare and economic centres, providing and enduring more positive outcomes for residents and local authority landlords.”

As brownfield sites tend to be located in urban areas that are often deemed too difficult to build upon due to factors such as remediation costs, size, shape and site access and the report recommends that local authorities prioritise modern construction methods which are able to overcome many of the unique challenges of building upon such sites.

Mr Powell added: “While we wait to fully understand the economic and social impact of the COVID-19 virus, we must try to prepare as much as possible for the resulting consequences while managing new and existing challenges.”

In September 2019, Bolton Council leader Cllr David Greenhalgh pledged his support for the region’s controversial masterplan for homes, jobs and the environment, despite speculation that as the only Conservative representative on Greater Manchester’s combined authority, he could use his individual veto.

The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) stated that all 13,940 homes that must be built in the borough by 2037 would be located on brownfield sites, with threat to greenbelt believed to be just 2%.

Cllr Greenhalgh added: “We will support the GMSF because Bolton gets a good deal in it. There is no proposed housebuilding within Bolton’s green belt.

“It’s for [other Conservative groups] to fight their own battles. They need to fight their own Labour councils.”

Of all the homes built in Bolton from April 2014 to March 2017, 93 per cent were built on brownfield land.