A DEVELOPER building hundreds of homes on green fields in Westhoughton has saved half a million pounds in contributions to the council as the local authority says it no longer needs money for a new primary school in the area.

Bellway Homes said it would pay nearly £1m for 39 primary and 31 secondary school places, according to a report to the planning committee in January when councillors rejected a bid to build another 167 houses at Bowlands Hey.

According to the report, new primary and secondary schools would be needed near the site where 129 homes are already under construction, if the scheme was successful.

But months later, when the decision was appealed by the developer, Bolton Council dropped its claims for a contribution towards primary schools, as “updated information” showed there was in fact a surplus of pupil places.

Bellway Homes will now only have to pay the local authority half a million pounds towards a new secondary school within five miles of the site.

This comes as councillors claim more children will have to travel further to attend schools in other towns as hundreds of homes are built in the borough.

Responding to the planning inspector’s decision to allow the development last week, Westhoughton councillor David Wilkinson repeated his concerns about school places in the town which currently has a population of around 25,000.

He said: “Children who come from this area, and also children who come from other parts of Westhoughton, will now have to go to primary and secondary schools out of Westhoughton.

“There’s insufficient school places to cope with any further development. The planning report makes it quite clear. Your kids will have to go out of Westhoughton.”

Once built, a total of 43 of the new houses in this second scheme must be available at “affordable rent”, with 15 to be sold or let below the market rate.

The developer has also agreed to pay £28,536.20 towards extending the right turn lane on Cricketers Way as part of the Section 106 agreement.

But Bellway Homes will only pay £506,925.36 towards secondary school provision – the same amount which was meant to pay for 31 pupil places.

A spokesman said the developer did not wish to comment but said that the council had overstated its requirements regarding education in January.

A council spokesman confirmed that the only Section 106 contributions required was for secondary places and that at the appeal hearing, it was established that there was no longer a demand for primary school places.

The planning inspectorate confirmed primary school provision played no part in the council’s case at the public inquiry held via video conference in July.

Executive cabinet member for children’s services Anne Galloway insisted that there is sufficient capacity in local primary schools and in Year 7 of Westhoughton High School, thanks to the recent expansion of the site.

She said: “We regularly monitor the planned housebuilding programme and work this into our projection models. Despite rising demand we ensure with forward planning that every child in the borough has a school place.”

The Conservative councillor also highlighted the opening of the King’s Leadership Academy around four miles away in Great Lever last year.

She added: “We continually work with the Department for Education to plan for additional school places and additional schools where there is a need.”

Last week, permission was granted for 1,036 houses, a 142-bed hotel and a golf course at Hulton Park on the condition it is chosen to host the Ryder Cup.

Developer Peel L&P has agreed to pay a series of financial contributions towards primary and secondary school education upon each phase of work.

It has also promised to transfer land on the green belt site to the council for the purposes of building a new primary school as part of the new community.

Local authorities no longer have powers to create new schools as there is a legal requirement that all new schools must be established as free schools which are funded by the government, but not run by the local authority.