BATTLE-LINES are being drawn over a £40million scheme to build 272 upmarket homes on greenfield land.

A major housing developer has submitted the first detailed planning application for the controversial North Blackburn Masterplan.

It will take more than half of the 60 acres earmarked by Blackburn with Darwen Council in the masterplan for housing development.

Paul Barlow, the manager director of Wainhomes North West, revealed many of the properties will be four or five-bedroom luxury homes selling for between £200,000 and £250,000.

Tory councillor Mike Lee has pledged to organise a series of resident meetings to oppose the ‘over-ambitious’ scheme.

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Borough regeneration boss, Cllr Phil Riley condemned his attitude as ‘short-sighted and small-minded’.

He said: “This is a massive investment and a vote of confidence by a major developer in the housing market in Blackburn.”

The masterplan proposes 450 luxury homes on greenfield land and was approved by the borough’s executive board in March despite Tory leader, Cllr John Slater’s concerns about roads, school places and drainage.

It is made up of four parcels of land and the Wainhomes application covers two at the western end off Yew Tree Road and Whinney Lane called Bullion Moss Fold and The Whinney.

Two more, East of Barker Lane, known as The Waves and West Wilworth, assumed Blackburn Rugby Club would sell their 12 acres of land and clubhouse and move to another location.

But its chairman Paul Westhead revealed a special members’ meeting had decided to stay put and only sell part of the land, using the proceeds to redevelop its clubhouse and pitches, including eight acres in Ribble Valley.

The masterplan is part of a blueprint earmarking 1,200 acres of countryside for 4,000 executive-style homes.

The Wainhomes application comprises 80 per cent semi-detached and detached properties. All will have gardens and parking spaces.

It includes landscaping, public spaces and a new priority-controlled junctions onto Yew Tree Drive and Whinney Lane with secondary access to both.

Mr Barlow said: “We have not invested in Blackburn with Darwen since the mid-1990s because of a lack of suitable land but this is our third scheme in recent years.

“There is a small one near Ewood Park and one for 79 homes off Gib Lane, where properties are selling well, showing a strong demand for good quality homes in the borough.

“The total investment in Yew Tree Drive is £40million with a wide mix of luxury homes, many of which will be four and five bedrooms, selling for between £200,000 and £250,000 with also more affordable two and three-bedroomed ones, some priced at around £100,000.

“This is an aspirational development with bespoke designs tailored to the local environment, more country-style near the Ribble Valley border and more urban near Yew Tree Drive.

“We think we can persuade residents, this development, will in the long-term be a major improvement to the area.”

Cllr Lee, who represents Beardwood with Lammack, said: “This remains the wrong scheme in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“I have spoken to local people and not a single one is in favour.

“We will be organising residents’ meetings to decide what happens next.

“There are major concerns about traffic, the capacity of local schools, drainage and flooding.

“I do not think these houses will sell and fear we will end up with either many empty homes or 50 built leaving an eyesore which blights other homes.

“We should not be sacrificing greenfield land for the council’s over-ambitious and grandiose plans.”

Cllr Slater said: “I will fully support Cllr Lee and residents in opposing this over-ambitious plan or seeking to reduce it to more suitable proportions. “There are serious infrastructure concerns.”

Cllr Riley said: “The Conservative view is short-sighted and small minded.

“This will be a major improvement to the north of the borough.

“I am am sure we can accommodate Blackburn Rugby Club’s wishes within the masterplan.”

Wainhomes hope to start work later this year if the application is approved.