A LOCAL authority has issued an emergency tree preservation order on the outskirts of one of the borough's main towns.

Pendle Council acted after residents saw a housing developer making ground investigations near the the woodland at The Lenches in Colne.

The order protects the coppice for 28 days while officials investigate.

It was brought in after worried locals attended at meeting of borough's Colne and District Area Committee last week.

The highly-visible trees are on land above the South Valley area of the town on which developers Gleeson Homes are preparing a planning application to build new houses.

The residents acted after discovering workers digging up the field and drilling holes and obtaining masterplan for the new homes.

Protest leader Emma Hartley said: “This is open countryside, out of the settlement area, highly visible for every single person that uses Colne town centre. It’s full of wildlife, buzzards nesting, barn owls and kestrels.

“It is the wrong place for a suburban housing estate, a rural area in the middle of nowhere

"My main immediate concern is for the line of trees. If they come and clear the site, all would be lost.”

Waterside ward Liberal Democrat Cllr Tony Greaves said: "Planning staff should urgently pursue the question of Tree Preservation Orders on appropriate trees on the site (preferably all of them).

“We don’t come back in June when it might be too late.”

A spokeswoman for Sheffield-based Gleeson Homes said: "We have engaged with both Colne Town Council and Pendle Borough Council to discuss very early stage proposals for a new housing development on the land.

"The scheme that we are proposing is for 106 new homes, which will include a selection of bungalows.

"There are no plans to develop the area fronting Knotts Lane, which is the area densely populated with trees.

"As part of the planning process, we will engage with local residents and stakeholders to ensure that both layout and design of the scheme is considerate to the local landscape and which will include a rural aspect on Lenches Road."

Neil Watson, Pendle Council's planning manager, confirmed the temporary order and said: “We have not received a planning application for the site.

"Land in The Lenches, Colne, is not being proposed for development as part of Pendle’s Local Plan Part Two.”