HERITAGE experts have slammed proposals to demolish a key historical building on the site of a former train yard.

Recent plans for a new £12m access road into the area would mean knocking down what remains of the Erecting and Repair Shop, a key part of the 133-year-old Horwich Loco Works.

The proposals have been put to Bolton Council's planning department by a joint venture involving funding firm Alpha Investments working alongside the authority itself.

But, Andrew Davison, inspector of ancient monuments for Historic England, said the work could cause "significant harm" to the Heritage Core of the site.

In a letter to the council, Mr Davison said: "Historic England has serious concerns regarding the application on heritage grounds.

"We consider that the application fails to provide clear and convincing justification for the loss of a building which makes a very significant contribution to what remains of the character of the Horwich Locomotive Works Conservation Area."

Horwich Loco Works encompasses the area previously used by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company - one of the biggest firms in the country - between 1886 and 1892.

It provided specialist workshops and equipment for repairing and building trains and was a key part of Horwich's industrial history until it closed in 1983.

The site was made a conservation area in 2006 by representatives from Historic England and the council in an effort to keep sections of the area safe from demolition.

In the intervening years, a large number of these buildings have been knocked down as heritage staff struggled to find modern uses for them, but several structures - including part of the Erecting and Repair Shop - were retained as part of a Heritage Core, meant to keep the spirit of the site alive.

The access road has already been granted initial planning permission but a second application has been made for site preparation which includes the demolition work.

If it is built, the road will link the £262 million Rivington Chase scheme to Middlebrook Retail Park, Horwich Parkway railway station and junction six of the M61.

It will be funded by a national government grant, which the council bid for, with funding approved last year.

The 150-acre Rivington Chase site received outline planning permission for 1,700 new homes, retail and leisure facilities in September 2015.

For more information about the latest access road proposals, search application reference 05378/19 on www.planningpa.bolton.gov.uk.