THE future of an educational farm where children work towards qualifications in animal care is ‘in jeopardy’ unless they are allowed a new building new to become coronavirus compliant, say supporters.

Heyhead Farm Educational Centre, Bowstone Hill Road, Harwood, provides practical agricultural learning to students from Bolton and Bury.

The centre, on green belt land, is currently closed due to pandemic restrictions.

Owner Alex Bailey wishes to build a two-storey building with a classroom, baking area, toilets and office space so it can fulfil its contracts with colleges in the area.

In supporting documents for a planning application lodged with Bolton Council last week, Macmarshalls Surveyors, pushed an ‘exceptional case’ for the structure to be built on the green belt.

A similar application last November was turned down by planning officers without going to planning committee.

Ms Bailey said she understood because the building was being developed on greenbelt land, it needed special consideration – but felt aggrieved she was not able to argue why the building met the ‘very special circumstances’ criteria and would have little, if no impact, on the area.

More than 50 students a week use the centre and that has been reduced to just five full-time learners. The farm has contracts with Bury College and Lifebridge in Bolton among others.

The new building would be used to run some of the courses and enable social distancing on the farm – for example baking classes can no longer be run from the house because of restrictions.

The new application states: “The school is well established and a vital resource providing a first class education to students classified as vulnerable.

The report adds that unless the build is passed staff members will lose their jobs.

The application will be considered by Bolton’s planning department at a date to be decided.