CONTROVERSIAL plans to build a temporary car park for the new Horwich Leisure Centre have been given the go-ahead, despite residents’ fears that they are a ‘Trojan horse’.
Bolton Council will erect the car park on Old Station Park, because of delays in CCG funding which has a new car park and health centre cannot yet be build on the town’s old leisure centre.
At a planning committee meeting today, councillors were re-assured by town hall officers that the park will be reinstated once work can progress on a permanent parking facility.
However, Philip Coventry, who objected to the plans, accused the council of a ‘land grab’ and said the 12-month temporary permission could in fact be a ‘Trojan horse’ disguising intentions to make the site a permanent car park.
He said: “There are no assurances or guarantees in place that the council will not make the car park permanent. It is nothing but a Trojan horse.”
Bolton Council officer Kellie Hopkins said: “NHS colleagues are confident that the health centre is going to move forward. The old leisure centre is a very big site and we will be pushing to ensure that demolition is carried out at the earliest opportunity and part of that site is identified for alternative parking provision.”
She added that a planning application for the new health centre is expected in Spring and that the council has already identified £80,000 of funding to reinstate the park.
Cllr John Walsh said he was ‘horrified’ by the council’s handling of this matter and that the town hall had got itself into a mess by imposing planning conditions it could not meet.
His Conservative colleague, Cllr Bob Allen, added that councillors were being ‘backed into a corner’ and pressured into approving this plan because the new leisure centre now built.
He adds: “I know that presents the authority with a big problem but you will have to work that out.”
Cllr Joyce Kellett, the committee’s deputy chair, agreed that the temporary site was necessary to prevent residents suffering ‘misery’ in an area that it already blighted by parking problems.
A condition was imposed on the temporary permission, stating that an alternative parking facility must be ready to use the day after the 12-month permission expires.
Cllr Norman Critchley said the council ‘have been made to look like fools’ because of this plan, adding ‘this should never be allowed to happen again’.