A DERELICT mill site which has been a target for arsonists, fly-tippers and vandals for years, could become a multi-million pound eco-friendly residential development.

The new owners of the former Creams Mill in Little Lever have unveiled ambitious plans for the site, which also include re-opening a section of the Bolton-Rochdale Canal.

Bosses at Mergon Properties — who bought the mill formerly owned by Mondi Paper UK for more than £1million in October — are now in the process of preparing a planning application for the £6 million scheme.

Lyndon Monks, director of Bolton firm, Westgate Estates, which is owned by the company, said: “We would mainly build houses but probably some apartments as well.

“They wouldn’t be carbon neutral but we will use eco-friendly materials to make sustainable housing and look at things like solar panels and wind power.

“The remaining 20 or so acres will remain as woodland which we would like to develop by enhancing the habitat for wildlife.

“We hope to re-open the closed section of the Bolton-Rochdale canal here and join it to the open parts, which are about a quarter of a mile away in each direction.

“The scheme is an exciting project and will certainly stop arson and vandalism as well as hopefully bringing people into Little Lever to live and visit.”

Production ceased on the 28 acre mill site in 2004. The buildings have since become the target of arson attacks, fly-tipping and vandalism.

The move has been welcomed by local councillors.

Cllr Sean Hornby said: “The site has been subject to 10 fires at least and is difficult to police as far as security is concerned.

“It would have been nice to restore the old mill, which was the oldest in Europe and one of the biggest employers round here, but this is not to be. I would like to see serious consideration given to re-opening the canal.”

The scheme is in the very early stages, but it is hoped a planning application will be submitted in early 2009.