A QUARRY firm has been accused of ‘thuggish behaviour’ after councillors rejected a retrospective application for ‘an industrial estate’ on green belt land built without planning permission.

Armstrongs Aggregates Ltd now face enforcement action which could compel them to demolish the ‘logistical hub’ for their Montcliffe and Pilkington quarries operation close the George’s Lane, Horwich.

Around 18 months ago Armstrongs Aggregates Ltd built offices, lorry maintenance sheds, a HGV parking area, a petrol pump and walls on land to the west of Makinson Lane, Horwich between Montcliffe and Pilkington quarries.

A meeting of Bolton’s planning committee heard the hardstanding area and buildings were constructed partially outside the permitted mining footprint on green belt land known as Marden’s Farm.

Cllr Richard Silvester told the meeting that Armstrongs had ‘ridden roughshod through planning regulations’.

He said the buildings and hardstanding area caused ‘significant harm to the green belt’ and should be opposed.

He added: “It has come to light that the land that this planning application is directed at does not fall within the Montcliffe or Pilkington quarry boundaries.

“They have bought up land outside the boundaries and developed it with total disregard to the planning process.

“In effect a whole industrial estate has been built in the greenbelt without planning permission.”

Armstrongs argued they had put forward ‘very special circumstances’ and said the benefits to mineral extraction clearly outweigh the ‘limited harm’ the proposed development has on the openness of the green belt.

Chris Heffernan, on behalf of Armstrongs, said the reason that the work was carried out without planning permission was due to ‘a mistake or misunderstanding’ on where the boundaries were for permitted development of the quarry site.

He argued once quarry operations at Montcliffe and Pilkington quarries have ceased, there will not be a need for the proposed development and all parts of it will be removed from the site..

Cllr Peter Wright of Horwich & Blackrod First Independents, said: “It’s just thuggish behaviour that we see from this company. This is a large industrial site in the rural area and I’m happy to back refusal of this.”

The proposal sought to move the quarry operator’s HGV parking and servicing from their former site at Horwich Loco Works.

A report to councillors, said: “This will have highway benefits owing to HGVs not having to travel through Horwich to reach the quarries.”

The meeting heard from an objector to the development who said neighbours had no idea of the scale and impact of the development when construction work started on it.

He added that the hard standing area and internal road built were on an incline and claimed that allowed standing water during rainy conditions to flow towards nearby residential properties which put them at risk of flooding.

The entire committee voted to reject the retrospective plans bar one member, who abstained.