A ‘beautiful’ vacant Victorian building will be demolished in Lowton to make way for houses despite upwards of 800 objections.

There had been hopes that Oaklands, a former children’s home which was most recently used as offices by Wigan council, could be retained as a heritage asset for the village.

The site off Newton Road, which has been subject to vandalism since falling out of use in 2016, was sold by the local authority to Wiggett Homes.

The developer had hoped to build 28 houses but were forced to make changes as it proposed a denser layout and more trees being cut down.

Instead there will be 19 houses – a mixture of three and four-bedroom detached and semi-detached properties – and a three-storey apartment block with six two-bedroom flats.

Leigh Journal:

Plans for the new development  (Wiggett Homes/TADW Architects)

But the original scheme had attracted significant opposition from the local community, and a petition was signed by 781 people opposing the development.

A further 16 written objections were also submitted to the council from residents leaving near the site.

Concerns were also raised about a covenant on the site which restricts its use for the care of children, though Wigan’s planning committee heard on Tuesday that this was not a matter for them to consider.

Liz Brown, a member of the public speaking against the scheme, suggested that by selling the land for housing Wigan council was not fulfilling the ‘spirit of the covenant’.

The statement read to the committee said: “The many small building projects passed by the council in this area have a detrimental impact on our environment.

“Wigan council is systematically infilling every available space in Lowton with housing and further aggravating the Land Head choke point.”

Councillor Stuart Gerrard argued that council should be retaining and reusing buildings like Oaklands as it suggests in national planning policy.

“It’s a beautiful building and it looks like it could be well saved and conserved for future generations,” he said.

The meeting heard that Oaklands was not listed or located in a conservation area and, while having some historical merits, was not eligible for statutory protection by the council.

Councillor Kathleen Houlton argued that the building and land should never have been sold in the first place, and reiterated concerns about the development’s impact on local roads.

She added: “Oaklands had a covenant and it should be used for the children, this one is legally recognised.

“We’ve got enough houses, we’ve got enough traffic, it’s an absolute disgrace and the people of Lowton have been let down and the council are responsible.”

But the committee was told that rejecting the application over the covenant and traffic would not be legally sound, and would leave the council ‘vulnerable’ to losing an appeal and paying costs.

The committee eventually agreed to approve the application, with seven members voting for and four against.

Mark Harrison, the agent speaking on behalf of Wiggett Homes, said: “The proposed development will ensure that a problematic derelict site is quickly redeveloped to provide attractive and desirable new homes for sale.

“It is the first scheme Wiggett has undertaken in Wigan and construction will bring approximately £4m into the local economy.”

None of the homes will be affordable, but the developer has agreed to pay the council £77,000 to secure affordable housing on other sites in the borough.