Horwich shopkeepers breathed a sigh of relief today after planning chiefs made it almost impossible for a retail giant to open a superstore at the Middlebrook Retail Park.

Councillors in Bolton ruled catalogue firm Argos would not be able to sell toys, books, jewellery or fashion accessories.

With that condition, it is thought unlikely that Argos would open in a unit occupied by electrical goods retailer Powerhouse. But it could launch an appeal against the councillors' decision.

Horwich councillor Barbara Ronson told Bolton's planning and highways committee yesterday: "We have major concerns about this proposal because of the effect it would have on shops in Horwich town centre.

"Some goods that would be on sale at the store can only be bought in the town centre at the moment." Argos had submitted an application to overturn a six-year-old planning condition designed to protect local shopkeepers.

An inspector banned retailers from selling toys, books, jewellery and fashion accessories when the park was being planned.

Four years ago the Horwich Chamber of Trade, which has now ceased to exist, complained that Asda and Boots were selling clothing and toys at the Middlebrook site.

But Bolton Council decided not to take action as the items were not the stores' primary trade. They decided planning conditions had not been breached.

Before yesterday's meeting a spokesman for Argos said the store would have no effect on other shopping areas -- adding that the banned goods made up only 22 per cent of sales.

He said other local authorities had given the firm permission to sell the goods from retail parks. Argos's presence at Middlebrook, he said, would lead to new investment and jobs.

A report by council officers had recommended that Argos be allowed to sell toys, fashion accessories, books and jewellery but not shoes or clothing.