A COUNCILLOR was criticised by his colleagues after he accused a nursery of ‘land grabbing’.

The argument between Cllr Jack Speight and other members of Westhoughton Town Council happened as they discussed a planning application.

Westhoughton Kids Club wants to create three hard and soft play areas next to its base in Acorn House, Dams Head Fold. They would be built on a narrow strip of land to the north east of the building and would have a 2.4m-high fence around it to safeguard the children.

Cllr Speight, who represents Chequerbent, said: “I think it is land grabbing personally because the land as it is at the moment is a recreational area for the whole community of Westhoughton.

“It’s going to end up with a 2.4m-high screen around it and I think it will be an eyesore. There are places behind there where they can move the cars and you will have more play area there. I do not like the idea of it. I think it is land grabbing of the recreational area for the whole community. A private business is taking it and it is going to have a great big screen around it from top to bottom.”

The comments angered his fellow councillors, who supported the application.

Cllr David Wilkinson said: “This is a very successful children’s unit and whether you like it or not Westhoughton is growing. We are fortunate to have some very, very good children’s facilities. They aren’t going empty, they keep getting more kids. I’m sorry but the facility is there, it has a fence around it to protect it. You can not argue planning issues on duff ideas. They are not land grabbing, they have purchased the land properly through legal channels.”

Cllr David Chadwick agreed with Cllr Wilkinson and said the nursery was ‘very well organised’ and ‘very well run’.

Cllr Ryan Battersby, deputy leader of the town council, said: “The council is supposed to be supporting local businesses and if it gets back to them that we are accusing them of land grabbing, it does not set a very good relationship between the council and businesses in Westhoughton.”

Wale Jones, the owner of the nursery, disputed Cllr Speight ‘s comments. He said: “We are hoping to get that piece of land released to provide our children with additional playing space.

“There is a path separating that land from the rest of the park and 70-80 per cent of it is going to be left as grass.”

The application will be decided by Bolton Council at a future date.

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