A WILDLIFE haven close to a major new housing estate has been designated an Asset of Community Value giving local residents priority to bid for it if threatened by development.

The public open space off Kingsley Close in Feniscowles, Blackburn, is next to a 450 homes scheme being built by Blackburn Waterside Regeneration Ltd on the former Sappi Paper Mill site in Livesey Branch Road.

Neighbours became concerned for its future after several trees were felled close to the Leeds/Liverpool canal despite a condition on the planning approval protecting the land.

They turned to Livesey Parish Council for help and now Blackburn with Darwen Council has approved its application to make it an Asset of Community value.

This means if the land is subject to an application for development or sale proposal, the residents have up to six months to put together a bid to buy it.

Livesey with Pleasington ward's Cllr Mark Russell said: " “It’s clear the residents have used, maintained and cared for the land for many years. I’m pleased that it’s been recognised as an Asset of Community Value.

"I’d like to thank the council officers involved for coming to the right conclusion.”

Residents' spokeswoman Amanda Barnes said: "Originally a brownfield site, the land has been adopted by nature and is now supporting an abundance of wildlife.

"The residents living in Kingsley Close have used it to hold various celebrations.

"Their children have had the freedom of running around and playing imaginatively in this lovely nature-filled environment whilst being safe and close to home.

"Residents also regularly use the land to take their dogs for a walk, go for a stroll or just sit by the canal.

"Many garden birds have visited, as have woodpeckers and birds of prey. There have been hare and deer sightings.

"Over the years residents have looked after the land, regularly mowing the grass and fixing fences.

"They were determined the land would not fall into a state of disrepair and turned to Livesey Parish Council for help.

"It prepared Asset of Community Value nomination which has been successful.

"The residents are very grateful

"We feel hopeful that in time, native hedges and trees can be replanted and it will remain a wildlife haven and a safe public open space."

Cllr Phil Riley, Blackburn with Darwen Council's regeneration boss, said: "This is good news. I am pleased. It is appropriate for this open space which has been enjoyed for many years."