Developers have tried to reassure residents they are doing nothing wrong after they began ripping down trees to clear a site earmarked for 37 new homes.

Pillars Darwen Ltd, who were given the green light to build on derelict former railways sidings off Hollins Grove Street in Darwen back in July, made courtesy visits to residents on Monday, after they complained to the council and claimed contractors turned up at the site and starting pulling up trees and disturbing wildlife.

Lancashire Telegraph:

On Thursday, people living in Surrey Avenue pleaded with contractors from their back gardens to cease the removal of the trees, citing concerns over nesting birds, squirrels and owls, as well as highlighting the possibility of danger to life after exposed manholes were discovered.

Lancashire Telegraph:

One resident, who did not wish to be named said: "They're not supposed to be pulling the trees up on our side of the fence. They were ripping them up from the roots and squirrels were scurrying everywhere.

"And then they found at least 40 uncovered manholes. The site isn't even secured, so anyone could walk in and hurt themselves. Not to mention they got really close to the railway lines causing risk to Network Rail workers.

"We're not even sure they have permission to dig up these trees.

"We asked them to stop and said they shouldn't be there but they just carried on so we went onto the site and demanded they stop what they were doing.

"We know they have planning permission but there were 50 trees on that site and now there are just four."

Lancashire Telegraph:

Director of Pillars Darwen Ltd, Nassima Mogra, said the contractors had been on the site lawfully and were clearing it of dangerous materials so the ground could be surveyed before building is due to commence in February 2021.

Stating that a full ecological report had already been carried out, she said they had been advised to take down the trees and replace them with foliage and replacement shrubbery in fitting with the current landscape.

However, upon clearing the site, she said contractors had discovered hazardous materials and waste and had agreed to cease the cutting down of trees until the waste could be removed.

She said: "The contractors had come to remove some of the hazardous material on the site, such as asbestos, and while they were there noticed four man-made tents, beer kegs, used needles, tyres, a makeshift bonfire and lots of waste that looked like it had been dumped over the years.

"We have agreed to stop work in order to make the site safe.

"However, there are no tree protection orders on any of the trees on that site, we were granted planning permission in July, and when we took some of the fences down in accordance with the guidelines, we found some of the trees were coming through the fences and had to be removed.

Lancashire Telegraph:

"I went to visit the residents on Monday to reassure them we were doing everything by the book.

"We are pausing the clearing of the site and will not be commencing building until February.

"Within the plans we will be planting more trees and the biodiversity will be replaced making the area much better and more eco friendly than it was.

"We understand the residents concerns but we are only trying to make the area safe."