THE owners of an award-winning cheese factory in Longridge have said they may have to move from the Ribble Valley if a proposed conservation area extension gets the go ahead.

Singleton’s Dairy, based at Mill Farm, had been in talks to expand the business into Stonebridge Mill, a former steel works, as the company was growing and needed more space.

But Ribble Valley Council has submitted plans to increase the Longridge Conservation Area to cover the mill, meaning Singleton’s would not be allowed to convert it.

The company, which exports cheese, mostly for supermarkets, to over 30 countries, has grown from strength to strength over the last 10 years, exporting £2.25million worth of cheese to the USA alone during the first quarter of this year.

But further growth has had to be put on hold because of space constraints, and Tilly Carefoot, managing director, said if she could not expand into the mill, she would have to move out of the borough, putting 86 jobs at risk.

She said: “I have the most loyal and hard-working staff and that is why we are so successful.

“I would hate to think I would lose them, but I probably would.

“It is frustrating that I can’t make something of the mill – it would give me the space we need to continue our success story.

“Ultimately we do hope to have a visitor centre, an antiques museum and a place where you can watch the cheese being made, but that is a long way off – everything is on hold at the moment.”

Nigel Evans, MP for the Ribble Valley, said making sure Singleton’s could stay in Longridge was just as important for the town’s conservation.

He said: “Singleton’s Dairy is Longridge and Longridge has long been associated with the dairy.

“For them to move out of Longridge, never mind the Ribble Valley, should be avoided and I would have thought that those involved would sit down and work out how we can allow them to expand their operations at the same time as conserving what is absolutely essential.”

Principal planning officer at Ribble Valley Council, Adrian Dowd, said the main aim was to protect and enhance the existing environmental quality of the area.

He said: “In my opinion the omission of important Stonebridge Mill buildings and structures from Longridge Conservation Area undermines the significance, integrity and legibility of this important site and the character and appearance of the conser-vation area as a whole.”