COUNCIL bosses have backtracked on their claims that there was ‘categorically no Japanese knotweed’ present on a piece of land earmarked for development.

At the beginning of October the Lancashire Telegraph reported how residents close to the Tower View site in Darwen, which has been earmarked for 17 new homes, had written to the council expressing their concerns over the presence of the invasive weed.

Growth and development boss at Blackburn with Darwen council, councillor Phil Riley, said there was none of the plant detected on the site, despite it being discovered on other development areas in the town.

He stated: “There’s Japanese knotweed on the adjacent Marsh House site which came to light during the Ellison Fold Way construction and we’ve started a programme of treating it with chemicals that will take approximately three years.

“But I can categorically say there is no Japanese knotweed on the Tower View site.”

Alarmed at the council’s denial, resident Nigel Cook wrote directly to Cllr Riley to tell him he had been misinformed.

Mr Cook said: “I suspected that he may have been ill-informed of the situation so wrote to him directly. I also sent him some additional photographs of how far the knotweed had spread since Hearle Home contractors had ploughed the area.”

Photographs sent to the Lancashire Telegraph show the new shots of knotweed after only four weeks of the ground being disturbed by diggers.

Mr Cook added: “I challenged Cllr Riley to meet me at the site but he chose not to. Instead, he has now, not surprisingly, admitted that the knotweed is growing on the Tower View site.”

In Cllr Riley’s response to Mr Cook, he said there was no Japanese knotweed on the site when the council sold it to Hearle Homes in March.

He said: “However, I am now informed by officers that Japanese knotweed has indeed spread onto the Tower View site as your photographs would suggest.

“Thank you for bringing this to my attention and, in consequence, I have spoken with the council’s growth and planning and environmental teams who will closely monitor the contractor’s work in accordance with the required guidelines and take all necessary actions.”

Hearle Homes was contacted for a response but did not comment.