A £100 million racecourse plan that seemed an odds-on favourite for approval has fallen at the last hurdle.

Peel Investments called in the government to judge whether its 'new Manchester racecourse' and Salford Forest Park development could go ahead after local authority delay in making a planning decision for the Green belt site bordering Astley and Boothstown.

The racecourse plans were first put forward in 2004, over 40 years after Manchester Racecourse, alongside the River Irwell at Broughton, closed.

But Peel's planning appeal against Salford City Council and Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council has been rejected by John Denham, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

The adventurous scheme earmarked for south of the Bridgewater Canal would have included a horse racing course with 6,000-seat grandstand, an eventing course and an equestrian centre at the centre of the 1,690-acre site, plus an 18-hole golf course, an 80-bedroom hotel, a restaurant and a swimming pool, a forest park visitor centre and an eco-village.

Cycle trails and 20 miles of footpaths were planned in a forest park utilising Botany Bay Wood. An access road was planned off the East Lancashire Road opposite to the Queen's Arms at Boothstown and the development would have been on land worked by Moss House and Malkins Wood farms at Boothstown.

The Secretary of State ruled it was “inappropriate” in a green belt area and the downside of the scheme was greater than advantages such as more jobs.

He decided: “The proposal would cause significant harm to the purposes of including land within the Green Belt, in particular safeguarding the countryside from encroachment, checking unrestricted sprawl and assisting urban regeneration.

"I consider there would be very clear and very substantial harm to the Green Belt."

Peel has six weeks to challenge the decision by applying to the High Court.