CONTROVERSIAL plans for a new access road to East Lancashire’s largest prospective employment site have been passed by county councillors.

Campaigners had lobbied for an alternative route to the Samlesbury Enterprise Zone, closer to the junction of the A59 and Preston New Road.

But Lancashire planning chiefs insisted that option would not only be more expensive than their existing budget but potentially cut into the green belt. Officer Rob Jones said in a report that such a proposal would risk damaging Huntley Wood, a designated ancient woodland and a biological heritage site.

He added: “The proposed creation of a new signalised junction on the A59 and access road to form an entrance to Samlesbury Enterprise Zone would have a lower cost, no affect on green belt land, no ecological issues, reduced impacts on the local landscape and on visual amenity, no land ownership issues and less delay than compared to a new access further west nearer the junction between the A59 and the A677.”

But John Greaves, of Samlesbury Enterprise Park Action Group, said: “In our alternative route not one tree was going to be taken down – yet on the A59 around 20 will be lost.”

And while planners claimed there was evidence of badgers around Huntley Wood, the campaigners are adamant the link road would hit a similar habitat.

County Coun Alan Schofield and Maria Morton, from the action group, had successfully lobbied for the scheme to be deferred last November.

Residents were also unhappy that the proposed access onto the site from the A677 – due to be constructed before 2023 – could not built at the outset.

And the action group questioned whether traffic light access could not be included for the residents of Sykes Holt and whether accident rates on the A59 could be clarified.

The county council development control committee was told an electricity sub-station would have to be moved, at extra cost.

An analysis of the accident rates showed there had been none at the proposed junction location but three elsewhere, two minor and one fatal, caused by a car ‘jumping a red light’.

The BAE-backed enterprise zone could generate 2,000 jobs. More than 20 firms had expressed interest