Cream Mill Canal Basin
The stretch of canal has been dry since a breach in the 1930s. Credit: via planning documents

Bolton rejects canalside housing plan

Neil Tague

A proposal from Watson Homes for 255 houses, along with canalside restoration work in Little Lever, has been refused at planning committee on Green Belt grounds.

Supported by P4 Planning, TADW Architects and landscape consultancy Enzygo, Watson had put forward plans for housing on two sites

The first was the former Creams Mill plot and land off Mytham Road, with associated works including a two-way bridge and woodland walking routes.

The developer proposed to tackle a 60-metre breach in the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal dating back to the 1930s, meaning that water could be reintroduced to a currently dry 700-metre stretch of the waterway.

The second plot, described as land south of Hall Lane, had associated with it infrastructure works including canal paths. The sites comprise a total of 31 acres. This plot was formerly used for coal mining, the first was a paper mill.

Watson’s plans were recommended for refusal on Green Belt protection grounds. As an additional factor, the Hall Lane site is subject of an application for village green status, to be determined early in the New Year.

On the decision, Cllr Martin McMulkin told Place North West: “The proposed development has many positive aspects, obviously the much needed affordable housing and even the reinstatement of the canal.

“But if we as a council are serious about protecting greenspaces including public parks and in the wider context committed to the climate strategy passed by full council, then we must refuse such proposals for the benefit of the town, the planet and future generations.”

Watson had initially mapped out a scheme including 274 homes, 244 of them to be affordable through one means or another.

With alterations made since submission, the scheme as described for members in the planning officers’ report was presented as 77 private sale homes at Hall Lane, 66 affordable homes off Mytham Road, 44 affordable flats and 44 affordable houses on the mill site, and 24 private rent apartments.

One change was the removal of an apartment block at Hall Lane, while viability concerns caused Hall Lane to go from 100% affordable to 100% market sale.

Both sites are classed as Green Belt, however the Creams Mill site is allocated for housing. Planning has been granted for the site previously, with one permission still extant, but development has not proved viable, according to P4’s planning statement.

That statement looked to make the case for “very special circumstances” coming into play, pointing out the national housing shortage and the acute need for affordable homes in the area, as well as meeting long-term aims of the council and the Canal & River Trust in carrying out the canal repairs.

Creams Mill Site Plan

How Watsons team mapped out the proposal. Credit: via planning documents

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