'Horrendous' - The Greater Manchester town where ‘five-minute journeys can take half an hour’

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It’s a rainy and blustery Friday morning at the UK’s largest retail park, but Middlebrook remains busy with shoppers stocking up for the weekend.

The shopping outlet, alongside Bolton Wanderers’ Toughsheet Community Stadium, is in the heart of the Bolton West constituency with incumbent MP Chris Green winning by a margin of 8,855 at the last election in 2019.

That makes it the most comfortable Conservative majority of the seven parliamentary seats they hold in Greater Manchester. The Labour hopeful for the seat is Phil Brickell while candidates will also stand for the Liberal Democrats, Reform, English Democrats and the Greens.

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The constituency is not considered a typical ‘red wall’ seat where the Tories broke through for the first time in 2019 but more of a traditional marginal with both the Conservatives and Labour winning over recent decades. It includes the large towns of Horwich and Westhoughton along with semi-rural villages and large swathes of green belt.

The Middlebrook retail park in Horwich The Middlebrook retail park in Horwich
The Middlebrook retail park in Horwich | LDRS

Road congestion and the proliferation of housing developments are major issues voters often speak about in Bolton West. The Horwich Loco Works development will see more than 1,000 homes built near Chorley New Road and other schemes include a large estate currently being built on the former Horwich Golf Club.

Congestion is rife in the town, particularly centred on the Beehive roundabout, which funnels traffic towards Bolton, Middlebrook and the M61. A relief road, the Horwich Loco Works spine road is under construction but a proposed multi-million pound levelling up bid to improve traffic capacity at the Beehive roundabout, the Spirit of Sport roundabout, the A6 De Havilland Way and at Junction 6 of the M61 was not successful when the winning projects were announced.

Westhoughton has seen expansion over recent years, with another notoriously busy roundabout, at Chequerbent, often creating queues of traffic for hundreds of metres along the A6 and back towards the town centre providing delays and much frustration for residents.

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The Local Democracy Reporting Service asked shoppers at Middlebrook which issues concerned them in Bolton West.

Margaret Stevens, from HorwichMargaret Stevens, from Horwich
Margaret Stevens, from Horwich | LDRS

Margaret Stevens, 78, lives in Lostock, on an estate which exits on to the Beehive roundabout. She said: ”Locally, we’re getting a lot of houses built but getting no extra roads.

“The traffic around the Beehive roundabout which I use all the time to get out of my road, is horrendous at times. It can take half an hour to get from one end of Horwich to another which should take five minutes. It’s just dismal.”

Margaret added that she will be supporting Labour in the election as it ‘was time for a change’.

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Andy Phillips. 69, from Westhoughton, is a traditional Conservative voter but said he has ‘lost any enthusiasm’ for the party. He reiterated the concerns about traffic congestion which he believes is caused by ‘new housing’ often on green land he said should be protected.

He said: “All the new housing around this area just chucks more and more cars onto the roads and makes already bad congestion much worse. It’s a point made over and over but the basic services such as roads, health centres and schools aren’t there. I’m retired so am more likely to need health services in the future.

“I’ve perceived a decline in the NHS over the past decade. That being said I’ve no love for Starmer either, I’ve no time for any of them.”

Sally and Isobel Adamson, from WesthoughtonSally and Isobel Adamson, from Westhoughton
Sally and Isobel Adamson, from Westhoughton | LDRS

Sally Adamson, 47, from Westhoughton, was out shopping with her daughter Isobel, 19, a maths student at Lancaster University. She said: “Westhoughton is a nice place to live but it’s expanding.

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“Like many others I have concerns about access to health services, you just don’t seem to be able to get a doctor appointment nowadays and the roads are choc-a-bloc, especially up to Chequerbent.

“I tend to vote Conservative but I have voted in other ways in the past. This time I suppose I’m not enthusiastic about any of the parties so at the moment I’m undecided.”

Ella Stevens, who turn 18 last year, will be voting for the first time next month. From Horwich, she will be starting a degree in film production at Salford University in September. She said: “I have shown an interest in the campaign and definitely the party that aligns most clearly with my values are Labour.

Ella Stevens, 18, from HorwichElla Stevens, 18, from Horwich
Ella Stevens, 18, from Horwich | LDRS

“I think the national service policy is ridiculous. Volunteering for teenagers is a great thing to do but there should not be any element of forcing young people into it. I disagree with teenagers being put in the armed services as I think that just leads to more militarisation.”

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John McKee, 73, said he would be voting on more national issues such as climate change, immigration and the cost of living. “Obviously everybody’s concerned about the cost of living,” he said.

“With climate change, I have a feeling that people just aren’t ready to change. We’ve built this world for what it is and we don’t want to give it up so I don’t think climate change policy is going happen if I’m honest.

“I’m in my 70s, I hope it does but I can’t see it. I don’t think people want it. Well they want it, but they don’t want the consequence of it if you can understand.”

Full list of Bolton West General Election candidates

  • Vicki Attenborough (Green)
  • Phil Brickell (Labour)
  • Dylan Anthony Evans (Reform)
  • Chris Green (Conservative)
  • Patrick Robert McGrath (English Democrats)
  • Donald Andrew McIntosh (Lib Dem)

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