CONTROVERSIAL plans to build 300 new homes in Westhoughton will go ahead, after Bolton Council lost its battle to stop the development.

A Government planning inspector has overturned the town hall's decision to reject Persimmon Homes' proposal to develop 45 acres of protected open land at Lee Hall, near the Chequerbent Roundabout.

The inspector, Frances Mahoney, said that the potential harm caused by the proposed development would not 'come close to significantly and demonstrably outweighing the benefits of the scheme'.

A 'significant shortfall' of housing across Bolton was once again stated as a key reason for allowing the development to go ahead, as it was with similar appeals at the Bowlands Hey site in Westhoughton and in Blackrod.

The inspector said that the Lee Hall site would make a 'timely contribution' to closing the gap towards meeting the borough's housing needs.

It is expected that this decision will have major implications on future development plans in the borough — including Peel Holdings' hopes of building a championship golf course and 1,000 homes on the Hulton Park Estate, plus a further 300 at Horwich Golf Course.

The council had argued that the development would aggravate congestion problems in Westhoughton, but the inspector said that the potential extra delays would be 'barely discernible'.

She added: "I do accept for locals a further few minutes of queuing or waiting to exit their driveways would be annoying but such limited harm, in itself, would not elevate the actual impact of free flow of traffic beyond that already outlined."

Ms Mahoney also dismissed concerns that a new road diverting traffic from Park Road along Platt Lane and into the new estate would become a 'rat run' and would pose a risk to unaccompanied children going to a play area.

The town hall's legal team had also hoped that its proposals to press ahead with the building of a Westhoughton Bypass would encourage the Government to leave this land available for use as part of its route.

However, the inspector decided that little weight could be given to that argument because those plans are at such an early stage — with no funding and no agreed route.

She said that a new bypass would be 'integral' to relieving congestion and serving a much larger housing allocation that is expected to be earmarked for Westhoughton when the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) is rewritten.

But with the 'general vacuum of planning information' on the bypass, Ms Mahoney said that other land owned by Persimmon from the Chequerbent Roundabout down to Platt Lane could be used for the bypass instead.

The major developers who launched the appeal — Persimmon, Harcourt Developments, and Peel Investments — have also made a claim for costs against Bolton Council.