A FORGOTTEN foot and mouth burial pit containing 150 animal carcasses could blow a hole in plans to build up to 500 homes on Blackburn farmland.

Concerned local residents alerted borough councillors to the existence of the mass grave from the 1967, outbreak of the highly infectious disease of cattle, sheep and pigs when they debated the Gib Lane masterplan.

Keith Murray, chairman of the Greenfield Focus Group, told Blackburn with Darwen Council’s executive board of the threat to their development plans on Thursday.

Regeneration boss Maureen Bateson said the presence of the pit was news to her but said it would “have to be investigated as such a pit would be contaminated land”.

Lancashire Telegraph archives confirm the digging of trenches to bury the carcasses of diseased animals at Horden Farm in Feniscowles after it was hit by the nationwide outbreak in November 1967.

To build on the site, developers face strict conditions on digging up the carcasses as government advice warns that “under favourable conditions the disease can survive for long periods” and of the risk of groundwater contamination from decomposed bodies and the chemicals, including lime, used to disinfect the pits.

The borough wants to build up to 500 homes off Gib Lane over the next decade as part of its plan to build 4,000 rural-style executive homes on greenfield sites by 2030.

In January the first planning application in the masterplan area for a new 145-house “village” complete with country green and cafe was submitted by Rule Five Land Ltd on land near Horden Farm.

Dealing with the slaughter pit would significantly delay development of the immediate area.

Mr Murray came to the executive board to appeal for a delay in approval of the masterplan to allow for further consultation and investigation of the burial pit and fears of flooding.

He told the senior councillors: “We believe there is a pit where carcasses were disposed of in the mid-1960s during a foot and mouth epidemic.

“Someone who worked on the farm and involved with carcass disposals and he said the it holds at least 150 animals: cows, sheep, pigs and their young.

“I am also very concerned about drainage and the risk of flooding from six basins for run-off water in the plans and the lack of proper consultation with residents.”

As the Gib Lane Masterplan was approved, Cllr Bateson said it was framework to give council officials control over development.

She said his concerns would be dealt with when detailed planning applications were considered.