A MAJOR archaeological dig is to take place in the next few weeks at a giant site earmarked for industrial expansion in Westhoughton.

Earlier in the summer, developers Harworth Group plc secured planning approval for the development of up to 1.1m sq ft of logistics and manufacturing space at its site in Wingates.

They say the development at the 33 hectare site has the potential to create up to 1,500 new jobs.

Alongside 1.1m sq ft of commercial space, the proposed Wingates development will deliver upgrades to roads, drainage and utilities infrastructure, including a new access road.

The scheme received planning consent from Bolton Council in January 2020 but the application was called-in by the secretary of state for communities and local government.

Planning approval by them was granted in June following a public inquiry which was held earlier this year.

But as part of planning conditions, an archaeological survey will be undertaken in the coming weeks by a team from Salford University to examine whether there is any historical importance to the land.

The evaluation will mean the excavation of 23 trenches using a machine fitted with a toothless ditching bucket.

A report, which gives details of the work has been lodged with Bolton Council.

It states: “All machine work will be carried out under direct archaeological supervision and the machine will be halted if significant archaeological deposits are encountered.

“The top of the first significant archaeological horizon can be exposed by the machine, but will then be cleaned by hand and inspected for features and then hand excavated.

“All finds or environmental samples recovered during the archaeological works will be assessed and reported on by internal and external specialists.”

The paper gives some historical context, saying that in 1752, the Adlington and Westhoughton Turnpike Trust Road was created, running from Heath Charnock to Westhoughton, with a toll gate at the junction with Dicconson Lane, 430 metres north-west of the development site.

This turnpike road continued until 1873, after which it became a public road.

By 1851 the parish of Westhoughton was fully enclosed and a small area to the south west of the development site was marked as belonging to the trustees of the late Duke of Bridgewater.

In the mid to late 19th century, the areas surrounding the development site began to become more developed as the industrial revolution took hold.

The principal industrial sites located within the study area are associated with coal mining, with Albert Colliery to the north and Scot Lane Colliery in the north-west.

All field work will be carried out by Salford University working under the direction of a member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists.