THE historic Horwich Loco Works site could be transformed into a vast housing estate under new plans unveiled by town hall chiefs.

Bolton Council’s Core Strategy, a “masterplan” which also includes plans for regenerating Cutacre and Bolton town centre, says the Loco Works should be the site of 1,600 new homes.

The development could also see Middlebrook Retail Park extended and a new school being built on the site, as well as an increase in bus services running through the area.

But heritage campaigners fear part of the area’s history would be wiped out.

Horwich Heritage is concerned that the old Loco buildings — the best-preserved in the country — could be demolished to make way for the development.

Bluemantle and Orbit Developments, which owns Middlebrook, have formed a joint venture, known as Horwich Vision Ltd, which will work with Bolton Council to take forward the master plan for Horwich Loco Works.

Stuart Whittle, chairman of Horwich Heritage, said: “These buildings may not survive unless something drastic is done to try to save them.

“We are very concerned and we will be doing all we can to make our voices heard.

“We have tried to get the buildings listed but that has not happened and, even though it is a conservation area, the buildings could still be demolished.

“Horwich is famous for its Loco Works and this is important to the town’s heritage. I would urge anyone who feels strongly about this to write to the council.”

Cllr Stephen Rock, ward councillor for Horwich North East, said: “We need jobs and want to make this a centre for employment that it once was, but I have some concerns about the amount of traffic it will bring to the area.

“Chorley New Road is like a car park at rush hour, so it will need more access roads.

“I would also like to see the original buildings retained because they are part of our heritage and what made Horwich the place it is.”

The report says: “The council wished to see the Loco Works regenerated in a way that maximised economic, environmental, heritage and social benefits.”

Consultation for the plans started this week and will end on March 5.