A MAJOR industrial development in the green belt, which could create up to 1,500 jobs, has been put on hold as the government launches an inquiry.

Plans for the 100,000 square-metre site west of Wingates Industrial Estate, which were given the green light by the council in January, have been called-in by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

This is only the second time the government has intervened in a decision by Bolton Council in this way since the new Wanderers’ football stadium and the major out-of-town retail park in Middlebrook was signed off 25 years ago.

A public inquiry, like the one held last year to consider plans for 1,036 houses and a Ryder Cup-ready golf course at Hulton Park, will look at the Wingates application afresh alongside other plans for St Helens, Wigan and Warrington.

Westhoughton Town Council, which criticised the development, wrote to the Secretary of State in January asking for the application to be called in.

Cllr Bernadette Eckersley-Fallon said she is “delighted” with the decision.

She said: “It’s a no from me for anything in the green belt. Coupled with the application that’s in the Bernstein’s site, the infrastructure can’t take it, along with the green belt loss, wildlife and air pollution – residents are really concerned about it.”

Harworth Group, the company behind Logistics North, was granted planning permission for its proposal on green belt land off Chorley Road in January.

Plans for up to three new logistics warehouses on the former Bernstein’s Kitchen Factory Wingates Industrial Estate, were also revealed this week.

Cllr Anna-Marie Watters was on the planning committee, but voted against the West of Wingates application.

She said: “There’s still empty space on the original Wingates site and people keep saying, ‘yes, but it’s nearer to the motorway junction. It’s the same thing, everyone complained about Logistics North and that’s been a success.’

“But we are looking at two different beasts. The junction at Logistics North was a very lightly-used junction. It didn’t have the same population living around it.

“I just don’t know what planet people sit on when they say the highway network will manage.

“Every single time they say it can take more. How much more? Just how much more can it take?”

The site was earmarked for industrial development in the latest draft of the region’s masterplan for housing, jobs and the environment, the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF), which has not yet been adopted.

But deputy leader Martyn Cox welcomed the decision to call in the plans.

He said: “The West of Wingates development was part of the GMSF, a plan for the whole of Greater Manchester which was supported by all political parties on Bolton Council.

“I am happy the government has called in this particular development in for further scrutiny as its impact on the green belt could be considerable.”

A spokesman for Harworth Group said: "We're disappointed that the application has been called-in by Government, given the clear need for new employment land in the North West, the Government’s own plan to rebalance the economy and that it received conditional approval by Bolton's own Planning Committee.  We will now prepare for the inquiry accordingly."