THE property arm of the Issa brothers' business empire has cleared the first hurdle in developing a controversial piece of land where campaigners fear nuclear waste may be buried.

Monte Blackburn Ltd, owned by the Blackburn billionaires, has taken a legal option on part of a 94-acre countryside site on the edge of Blackburn, near Junction 5 of the M65.

Campaigners against the work believe radioactive waste was dumped down old mineshafts on the land between Belthorn and Guide in the 1950s.

Despite their fears, Blackburn with Darwen Council included the Green Belt site in its draft Local Plan as ideal for commercial and job-creating development.

Earlier this year Monte, owned by EG Group founders Mohsin and Zuber Issa, secured a legal interest in the land.

Lancashire Telegraph: Blackburn's billionare Issa brothers, who own EG Group and AsdaBlackburn's billionare Issa brothers, who own EG Group and Asda

In February, the firm started the planning process by requesting a screening opinion on whether land requires an Environmental Impact Assessment.

Now Blackburn with Darwen Council's Strategic Director of Place Martin Kelly has ruled it does not need an EIA.

He said: "In the opinion of Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council the proposal is unlikely to have significant effects on the environment, by virtue of the scale, location and nature of the development.

"On this basis, I can confirm it is the opinion of the Council the proposed development would not be subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment."

Campaign leader and West Pennine ward Conservative Councillor Julie Slater said: "I am very disappointed and angry.

"I and residents will fight any development proposal at every stage of the planning process."

In February Blackburn with Darwen Council's regeneration boss Cllr Phil Riley, who claims any buried radioactive material is at least a kilometre away from the site, said Monte's interest was a "vote of confidence" in the inclusion of the land in the borough's draft local plan.

A Monte spokesman declined to comment on the latest development.

He said at the time of the EIA screening request: “We have secured a legal interest in this fantastic site.

“The project is currently in its infancy and the outline planning application is not expected to be submitted until later this year."