A LANDOWNER in a moorland village has been granted permission to build a new stable block and riding arena after promising to restore its distinctive ecological character.

Matthew Garnett, of Higher Whittaker House in Belmont, wants to house six horses in the new building complete with tack room and storage area.

On Thursday, Blackburn with Darwen Borough’s Planning Committee approved the scheme despite concerns about its impact on the environment of a designated Lancashire biological heritage area and the neighbouring West Pennine Moors Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Councillors heard that previous work on the land in Longworth Road North had severely damaged the habitat especially a meadow of caltha palustruc, commonly know as the marsh marigold or kingcups well as a a wider ecosystem of flowering forbs and other grasses, fungi, mosses, invertebrates and microbes.

Ken Crosby, Mr Garnett’s father-in-law, told the committee the scheme would include measures to restore damage to the site which he claimed was mainly the responsibility of previous owners

He said his son-in-law would seek with council officers to bring back the caltha meadow and would ensure building work was fenced to protect the SSSI from damage.

Borough planning manager Gavin Prescott told the committee that despite the new stable block being twice the size of the current one and the addition of the timber-fenced ‘menage’, or riding arena, it would not visually harm the village area.

He said a 10-year ecological management scheme submitted with the planning application by Mr Garnett should, if adhered to, enable the site to be restored in keeping with its designation.

The scheme includes tree-planting, the installation of two bird boxes and a bat box, and measures to help the return of amphibians to a protected pond on the land.

The permission for the new stable and the new riding arena on land currently used for horse grazing was accompanied by strict conditions restricting their use to Mr Garnett and his family, requiring regular inspections of the progress of the ecological management plan, and the agreement of a special scheme to dispose of horse manure.

Committee chairman Cllr Dave Smith said the proposal would help restore the ecological value of the land.