A CONTROVERSIAL plan to build more than 400 new homes and a new school on greenbelt land in Heywood has been withdrawn.

The huge scheme at Heap Fold Farm included proposals to rebuild Heap Bridge Primary School and convert the existing building into 12 apartments.

A total of 426 new residential properties were also to be built on farmland off Bury Old Road, bounded by fields on three sides.

But it is understood that problems securing a construction firm to enter into a development agreement have led to the plans being scuppered — at least for now.

Agent Graeme Luxton, of GL Developments said deals with two potential developers had fallen through.

And Mr Luxton, who has not worked on the application for several months, says he understands that the application may have hit trouble after a problem trying to sell the land prior to planning approval.

He said: “The council will have told him to withdraw it of refuse it because if you are building there has to be a developer that will sign the development agreement. That must not have happened.

“You need a credible counter-party to sign a development agreement with the council for the school, otherwise what guarantee has the council got that, if it granted permission, the school would be built.”

He added: “I extended the application three times to allow him to conclude negotiations to sell the land to a credible counter-partner, but otherwise have had no dealings for six to eight months.”

The agent, who has worked on the "fantastic" scheme for more than four years, says it would be a sad if the scheme were not to come to fruition.

He said: “I think everybody would be disappointed, a lot of work went into it and it was a very, very good idea.”

Marcus Cockcroft, headteacher at Heap Bridge Primary School, said the school had not been directly involved in the application.

But he added: "Certainly the prospect of us receiving a new school building was an exciting one but, equally, there were a lot of local issues that needed ironing out as well."

A design and access statement accompanying the application said that the proposed development would 'provide much-needed, good quality homes in a highly sustainable location' adding that 'every effort' had been made to produce a design in keeping with the green belt surroundings.

But public opinion on the development was split, with objectors raising concerns over increased congestion on the A58, a loss of green space and the impact on services such as doctors’ and dentists’ surgeries.

However, those in favour welcomed the prospect of a new school. A statement accompanying the application said the “age and condition of the existing school leaves little opportunity for improvement due to the site constraints and the building not being fit for purpose”.

Rochdale Council confirmed the application had been withdrawn but did not make any further comment.

Mr Barton was unavailable for comment.