THE sun came out as we started to drive the gently curving single-carriageway road once branded a 'motorway through the green heart of Darwen'.

Ellison Fold Way bore little resemblance to the M65 as council strategic transport manager Mike Cliffe drove me down the £2million 750-metre highway which survived political stormy waters to actually get constructed.

He and Blackburn with Darwen Borough regeneration boss Cllr Phil Riley both seemed very pleased the controversial project, originally known as the Darwen East Distributor Road, had been successfully completed.

Yesterday it was just our car, a couple of contractors vehicles and the occasional resident of Ellison Fold Cottages using the new route.

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Today hundreds of cars, some avoiding the A666 though Darwen Town Centre, will start to use it after its official opening to through traffic.

That will rise to thousands a day if the predicted 350 new three, four and five-bedroomed homes on the surrounding Bailey's Field site are built.

Mr Cliffe points out the the 'stub roads' built by the council to access the proposed three housing estates, the ponds using run-off water which are hoped to be populated by frogs and toads, the speed-reducing table humps, and the footpaths, cycleways and verges alongside the road and explains plans for grass and trees to keep a rural feel to the route.

Cllr Riley dismisses Darwen MP Jake Berry's 'motorway' jibe and proudly points to the stone bollard marking the capping of the mine shaft which town council Mayor Cllr Roy Davies feared might cave in wrecking the Marsh House End of the the road.

He proudly points out the associated highway and junction improvements - notably the new roundabout at the notorious Sough Road junction with Grimshaw Street - which bring thescheme's total cost up to £3.5m.

Cllr Riley said: "You can see this is not a motorway but a normal residential road with a 7.5tonne wait limit and 30mph speed limit.

"The mine shaft has been capped to exacting Coal Authority standards,

"This road opens up Bailey's field for executive-style homes showing the council is as committed to providing good housing in Darwen as in Blackburn.

"If we had built the houses without the road, there would have been serious congestion problems and people would have demanded it."

Darwen East Liberal Democrat Cllr Davies said: "The road is as bad as I expected. It will cause major problems with traffic and road safety."

Cllr John Slater, leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council's Conservative group, said: "The road is as bad as I feared. It is pointless.

"I stand by Jake Berry's motorway comment. We will wait and see how many of these planned house are actually built."

Cllr Riley and Mr Cliffe are delighted to see their latest pet project through to Ivinson Road completed but it remains controversial.,

Only time will tell if it proves to be a major improvement to Darwen bringing the promised new homes for aspirational locals or the dangerous rat-run and white elephant it critics fear.