CONTROVERSIAL plans to build assisted living flats on an Accrington back alley were thrown out, leaving campaigners overjoyed.

Hyndburn Council planning committee members refused permission for the application by J&R Plant Hire UK to build six units on land next to Back Owen Street in the town.

A similar scheme was rejected last year by the council and also on appeal to the planning inspectorate.

Council planning officers had recommended the new plans be approved despite more than 100 objections from the public.

But citing concerns over access and safety, committee members voted unanimously against the proposal.

The site off Whalley Road is a former industrial plot which has been redundant and dilapidated for years.

Campaigner Jeanette Talbot said: "With all the empty houses in the borough and the number of allocated building sites, would it not make sense to build this on an already allocated site?

"It will look like a prison, not just to service users but to the community as well.

"This is one of the last green spaces in the town centre and we feel it's not good for the environment."

She also raised concerns about the loss of wildlife and bats and the impact on local electricity infrastructure.

Ward councillor Paul Cox added: "Anyone who knows that area knows it's an accident blackspot.

"Do we really want to put vulnerable people on a back street? Is social housing the most sensible use of that land?

"It is a plaster fix to solve a bigger issue."

Council leader Cllr Miles Parkinson said he was perplexed that Lancashire County Council's highways department had not objected to the scheme.

He added: "It's in the middle of one of the busiest roads in Accrington and we are asking vehicles to reverse out.

"I just don't understand how highways can say this is acceptable."

Borough planning chief Simon Prideaux told members the council had employed an independent highways engineer to back up their concerns at appeal but after a site visit, the planning inspector disagreed and found there were no issues with access or road safety.

The meeting was told that the government inspector didn’t agree with the council’s reasons for refusal on highways grounds and instead dismissed the appeal because there was no section 106 agreement to deliver the social housing element of the scheme.

Mr Prideaux told councillors that ‘to some extent our hands are tied by the inspectors decision’.

He warned if the development was again refused on highways grounds that the council could find itself in the position where costs could be awarded against it.

Agent for the applicant, Peter Hitchen, said the development would bring about the regeneration of a brownfield site in the heart of Accrington.

But despite his pleas, councillors voted once more to refuse the application.

An appeal is expected to be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate by J&R Plant Hire UK bosses.