A DECISION which could change the face of Holcombe Hill forever has been delayed until lockdown restrictions allow for councillors to visit the site.

Plans for a new farm building, a timber gate and the relocation of a shed and pig arc, which objectors say would involve an “irreversible” excavation of the historic hill, were due to be decided by the planning committee last week.

Another planning application to allow a nearby horse riding school to keep a green “shipping container”, which can be seen from the hill, was also discussed by councillors at the virtual committee meeting on May 26.

But decisions on both applications were deferred until a site visit takes place.

This comes after residents commissioned heritage consultants to assess the impact of the development which would involve excavating 389 cubic metres of the sloping rural landscape, according to objector Arne Swithenbank.

He said: “Would the land cease to be used if you did not allow this development? Of course not, it would continue to be to grazed as a field as it has for centuries. That would be the optimum viable use.

“It’s not optimal to excavate a great chunk out of it. And it’s not necessary for its continued viability.

“Kathryn Sather and Associates concludes that unlike a simple field shelter, the excavation into the bedrock of Holcombe Hill will be irreversible.”

Mr Swithenbank urged councillors to refuse planning permission for the development – but Ramsbottom councillor Clare Cummins said a site visit is required to appreciate its impact on the land south of Moorbottom Road.

She also said the council would be guilty of “failing to protect the green belt” if it allowed the metal container to stay on site at Margaret Haes Riding Centre.

The charity applied for planning permission to retain the “welfare unit” which will be used as an office, with tea and coffee making and some drying facilities.

But Dr Falmai Binns, who spoke at the virtual meeting on behalf of objectors, said residents in Holcombe were “astonished” when the green “tinge” was “dumped”on the edge of the riding school and appeared in the skyline.

She said: “Peel Tower is the most important heritage monument in the borough. The villagers acknowledge their responsibility as custodians of this borough asset.

“We try to maintain standards as such so that the masses who visit really enjoy themselves. Anybody who contravenes these regulations are regarded as diminishing all their work.”

The committee voted to defer its decisions on both applications until a physical site visit can take place.

Revised plans for replacement stables at Meadow View in Howarths Farm, Affetside were approved unanimously by the committee at the meeting.