WORK on building the first homes at the controversial Horwich Loco Works regeneration can now begin after plans were approved by Bolton Council.

The planning committee unanimously approved Bellway Homes' application for 112 dwellings on the site — the first after the 1,700-home Rivington Chase scheme was granted outline approval in 2015.

The developer's plan was criticised by residents and by Horwich Town Council, with concerns about the contamination on the site, as well as potential issues around traffic.

But the committee voted unanimously to approve the application, with most praising the developer for taking on a brownfield site.

Cllr Ann Cunliffe, who represents Horwich and Blackrod, moved the plan for approval at the meeting at the town hall.

She said: "It is pleasing to see the first application for this development.

"We all know that development of the Loco Works has caused much controversy.

"Local residents have understandably been concerned about the contamination and about the road infrastructure.

"I personally welcome development of this area and I welcome the whole site being made safe.

"I am not entirely comfortable with the application but I have to consider the wider benefit of the development."

Councillors echoed her sentiments and were happy that progress was beginning to be made on the site.

Cllr Sean Hornby said: "At last we have an application in a brownfield site. I think Horwich residents have raised serious concerns and I'm glad that they did because this application is before us.

"I think this authority is doing the right thing with this site and it should work."

A spokesman from Bellway Homes confirmed that work would begin on the site in January, with the first residents possibly moving in later in the year.

Pressure from Horwich residents recently led to developer Bluemantle, which is overseeing the whole site regeneration, to publish a masterplan.

This came after complaints that one had not been produced before the Bellway application.