THREE greenbelt areas have been allocated for industrial development in Bolton under a Greater Manchester-wide plan for new homes and jobs over the next 17 years.

Councillors debated the final draft of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) this week with one party leader saying ‘swathes of green belt land will be lost in Westhoughton’ if the plans go ahead as proposed.

The GMSF says of the 179,090 homes in Greater Manchester planned to be built by 2037, 13,226 will be in Bolton.

It concludes the supply of brownfield sites in urban areas of the borough will be enough to meet that requirement, and does not propose to allocate any sites in the greenbelt for housing.

This works out as an annual average of 778 homes to be built per year.

This would be phased so from 2020-2025, the annual average would be 504, then 778 from 2026-2030, then 974 from 2031-2037.

The GMSF proposes sites for development if they are currently in the green belt. If the draft were adopted unchanged, then these sites would be removed from the greenbelt.

In Bolton, there are three such sites, all for employment uses, at Bewshill Farm in Great Lever, Chequerbent North next to the M61 in Westhoughton and a much larger site west of Wingates.

The GMSF proposes two greenbelt additions in Bolton, at Horwich Golf Club, where there has been a rejected plan for housing, and Ditcher’s Farm, Westhoughton.

All 10 Greater Manchester councils must approve the plan in the coming weeks before a final public consultation in December.

Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Roger Hayes said : "We’ve done a good job on the housing side but very large swathes of greenbelt Westhoughton is going to industrial land.

"I’m also concerned about consulting over Christmas in a lockdown, it will prevent a proper consultation. Our group will vote against the plans.”

Council leader Cllr David Greenhalgh said the plans were a ‘good deal for Bolton’ and if it was not adopted the borough faced more risk to greenbelt for housing schemes.

He said: “We know greenbelt land has been under considerable pressure and we have lost many greenbelt development rejections on appeal.

“Without GMSF that would continue particularly in the west of the borough, the hardest hit being Westhoughton and Horwich where greenbelt is in jeopardy as when the council refuses the appeals are going against us.

“We can’t carry on with this uncertainty. If we do green spaces in Horrocks Fold, Astley Bridge, Bradshaw and Bromley Cross could fall foul of the appeal structure.

“Any encroachment of greenbelt is regrettable but without a doubt Bolton has got least reduction into green belt of any other GM borough. We have come up with the best scheme possible.”

Deputy Labour leader, Cllr Akhtar Zaman, said: “This proposal needs to go through. There is always tension between economic development and green belt protection."

Bolton Council will decide whether to adopt the GMSF at a meeting on December 3.