A PLANNING inquiry has heard plans for a housing development on Horwich Golf Club would cause ‘serious and substantial’ harm to the area.

At the start of a five-day inquiry, representatives from developers Peel L&P put forward their opening arguments, along with Bolton Council and the Stocks Residents Association, which opposes the plans.

Peel are appealing two applications, both refused by Bolton’s planning committee, one for 276 homes on the site and a smaller scheme which would see 150 houses built on the golf course off Victoria Road.

The council argue that ‘serious harm’ would be caused by building on the protected green land but Peel say the council ‘acted unreasonably’ in refusing the permission for both schemes.

A previous application for around 300 homes was refused by another planning inquiry appeal in 2019.

Alan Evans, for the council, said: “These applications would represent inappropriate development of protected open land.

“The proposed development would not would not maintain or respect the character and appearance of the area.

“It is considered the adverse impact of the development would significantly outweigh the benefit.”

Giles Cannock QC, for Peel, said the housing schemes did represent a valid development and would help Bolton’s supply of new housing, which is currently in shortfall.

He said around a third of the properties on both schemes would be affordable homes.

He said: “The previous planning applications were supported by the borough’s landscape architect and there were no technical objections.

“In light of representations from local residents members of the planning committee refused consent.

“This was not a reasonable decision.

“In the absence of the members of the planning committee acting reasonably, the applicant has no option but to appeal both schemes.”

He said the golf club has a number of longstanding issues and had run at a loss for 10 years.

He added that it was in need of renovation and only had 188 members and it was the golf club which approached Peel to sell the land in 2012, fully in the knowledge that the site would close and be redeveloped.

He said: “Payments to the club will cease in 2023 with or without planning permission. It does not have a viable future and will close regardless of the outcome of this inquiry.

“At this point there will be no public access to the course at all.

“In the absence of development the likely future of the club is vacancy, dereliction and decay.”

Jonathan Easton, for the residents association, said: “Members and other local residents regularly walk the public rights of way which offer a welcome taste of the countryside close to urban areas.

“It is a pastoral setting with rural views over the appeal site.

“These members have organised and energised and taken steps to influence the area in which they live.”

Earlier Peel said the development would be an investment worth more than £34m and which would create 235 jobs during construction.