A LARGE slice of historic Bolton has been put up for sale for the first time — with a price tag of £8.5 million.

The Hulton Park estate, which covers nearly 1,000 acres, is being advertised to potential buyers as a site for future housing developments or leisure facilities.

But news of its proposed sale has sparked concern from councillors, who fear for the future of the land, which stretches from Chequerbent in Westhoughton to Newbrook Road, Over Hulton, and includes the historic Pretoria Pit site.

Also included in the sale is 713 acres of farm land, 211 acres of woodland and lakes, 13 residential properties and commercial tenancies.

Cllr David Wilkinson said: “It is very worrying to see such a large area of land on the market.

There is no other designation for it other than farm land, which could mean a golf course, equestrian centre or country park. This could generate considerable activity and volumes of people.

“People in Westhoughton will be very concerned to see that the estate is selling off its assets.”

The estate has belonged to the Hulton family since 1167, when Lorweth and Madoc Hulton came to Bolton from Wales — although some evidence suggests the Hultons were there as early as 989 AD.

Family members lived on the estate until the death of Sir Geoffrey Hulton in 1993.

Since then only a handful of residents have lived there, despite several attempts from developers to build on the estate.

There are four lots which are available together or separately, and the estate will be sold subject to various tenancies, leases and licences.

Giles Wordsworth, head of the farms and estates team at Smith Gore, a national company handling the sale, said: “It is incredibly rare to bring to the market an estate which has never been sold before because the ownership has not been broken over a period of time “It has now become extremely well located for future development opportunities with much of the land adjacent to existing development as well as strong links to the local and national road networks.”

Hulton ward councillor Andy Morgan said: “The estate is protected by green belt land. There is no indication in the draft core strategy to change that status and I would resist and fight any attempts by any developer to do so.

“It is one of the biggest open, green, privately owned estates in the North West and is unique to Westhoughton.”