Controversial housing schemes approved at appeal

The proposed Horwich scheme

Plans to build family and affordable homes in Bolton to help meet local housing demand, with an investment of up to £34m locally and the creation of up to 235 jobs, have been given the go ahead at appeal, following three previous refusals at local level.

The proposals by Manchester-based Peel L&P and Northstone for homes off Victoria Road, including the site of the former Horwich Golf Club, were approved by the Planning Inspectorate yesterday (August 4) after a public inquiry at the end of June.

These plans include a 276-home development, first submitted in 2019 by Peel L&P, and a smaller development of 150 energy-efficient homes put forward by Peel L&P’s homebuilder, Northstone, in September 2020, with around a third of homes at each scheme earmarked for affordable housing for shared ownership or affordable rent.

When issuing his decision, the planning inspector said: “I am not persuaded by the evidence that either of the proposed developments would have a significantly harmful effect on the character and appearance of the area, including in terms of Horwich’s landscape setting.”

He added: “Either of the proposed developments would bring a range of benefits, most notably the delivery of a considerable amount of market and affordable housing in an accessible location with good access to a range of services and facilities.

“In the context of the area’s current issues with housing delivery, the benefits together carry at least considerable weight in favour of each of the appeal schemes.”

Jonathan England, development and projects director at Peel L&P and Northstone, said: “The decision reaffirms Bolton’s chronic shortage of housing and without a plan of where this will be delivered across the borough over the next five years, our proposals go a long way in helping to provide homes for people with a range of needs.

“We’re pleased the inspector has recognised this along with the many benefits our developments will have on the local economy through new jobs and investment, as well as being respectful to the environment and providing improvements to education, highways and green space for local people.

“We’ll continue to review the appeal decision before taking our next steps and there will be another opportunity for the community to have their say on the detailed designs as and when we decide to take any of these plans forward through a reserved matter application.”

Peel L&P acquired Horwich Golf Club in 2012 and has since helped to keep the struggling business running for the past eight years. The golf course, which is open to members only, is due to close in 2023 when the funding support ends.

Since the original proposals for 300 homes off Victoria Road were submitted in 2017, Peel L&P has reduced the development by two hectares and to 276 homes.

The planning inspector on the previous scheme of 300 homes back in July 2019 found that the site would make a positive contribution to meeting Bolton’s housing need, but dismissed the appeal due to the impact of the north eastern part of the site. The proposals were revised to resolve that issue but the 276 homes were refused by Bolton Council in January 2020 with Peel L&P taking the decision to appeal.

Then, in September last year, Peel L&P’s homebuilder, Northstone, also brought forward fresh plans for a smaller 150-home development at the same site with a third of homes earmarked for people with affordable housing needs.