A LONG-RUNNING battle over plans that could shape the future of Westhoughton has finally resumed.

The twice-delayed inquiry into Persimmon Homes' designs for a new housing estate near the Chequerbent Roundabout began yesterday, as Bolton Council seeks to stop developers from inflicting 'very significant harm' on the area.

A decision on whether the 300-home project goes ahead is expected to have major implications for future development around Westhoughton — including larger plans for 1,700 houses in Chequerbent, building on the Hulton Park Estate, and the potential for a long-awaited bypass road.

The council says that the planned estate, on 45 acres of land at Lee Hall, between Platt Lane and Manchester Road, would lead to a "very significant increase in traffic" on already congested roads.

However, the developers are arguing that the development is necessary to help correct the shortfall of housing in Bolton, adding that the council's traffic concerns are "wholly illogical".

The plans were unanimously rejected by Bolton Council’s planning committee in November, 2015, but Persimmon — as well as Harcourt Developments and Peel Investments — appealed the decision.

Ruth Stockley, representing the council at the town hall hearing, said: "The benefits of the proposal are acknowledged, particularly in economic and social terms.

"However, the harm is very significant. Severe impacts in highway safety terms would arise.

"In addition, there would be harmful residential effects, harm to the development of the wider area, and harm arising from the conflict with the Development Plan which must be taken into account."

Nearly 7,000 new homes planned in Bolton — including 1700-house Westhoughton estate

Giles Cannock, representing the appellant, told the inquiry that there needs to be a "step change" in the way Bolton Council approaches housing, saying that there is currently a shortfall of more than 1,500 homes across the borough.

He said: "These are houses that should have already been built and that shortfall has been very significant."

Bolton Council also argues that this "piecemeal development" of the land could stop the creation of a Westhoughton bypass, which the council agreed to in principle earlier this year.

However, Mr Cannock said that the council had provided "no evidence that such a link road can or will be delivered".

He added that the local authority must now deliver 1,134 homes each year from now on to meet its minimum requirement, but currently delivers an average of just 501 per year.

The developers say that the housing estate would lead to a £28 million construction investment and help create more than 100 jobs.

Mr Cannock, who argued that traffic issues would in fact be improved by the project, added: "In the context of the very real need for more housing in Bolton, it is clear that this proposal delivers sustainable development."

Ms Stockley told the inquiry that highway safety issues around the Chequerbent roundabout are grounds enough to refuse the scheme.

She said: "Accident records are high at the roundabout and at that junction, and congestion arising from queuing traffic approaching the roundabout and backing up raises capacity and safety concerns, particularly at peak times, as does the effect of traffic being stationary on the circulating carriageway of the roundabout.

"The council is aware, particularly through site visits and complaints, that there is a consistent problem of queuing on the circulatory carriageway of the roundabout in the peak periods, particularly during the evening peak."

She added that a proposed a spine road through the residential estate would be used as a 'rat run' and mean that homes would have cars going past every four seconds at peak times.

The inquiry is expected to continue until Thursday.