RESIDENTS who are opposing plans to build on 94 acres of countryside marched through Blackburn at the weekend to highlight the "significant environmental damage" they claim the development will cause.

The group - Protect our Greenbelt and Rural Communities - opposes the inclusion of the green fields between Belthorn and Guide, near the M65's Junction 5, in Blackburn with Darwen Council's draft Local Plan for job-creating development.

Young and old gathered at the Belthorn War Memorial on Saturday, April 23, before making their way past Royal Blackburn Hospital, down towards Darwen bridge and ending the march on the steps of Blackburn Town Hall.

The group are opposing any development on the protected Green Belt land.

Monte Blackburn Ltd, the property arm of EG Group founders' Mohsin and Zuber Issa's business empire, has a legal option on the land between Belthorn and Guide.

But campaigners believe radioactive waste was dumped down old mineshafts on the land in the 1950s.

Speaking on the day, protestor Paul Simpson said: “This was a demonstration against the Council’s proposed plan to include 94 acres of beautiful green belt land on the West Pennine Moors in their local plan.

“We, the residents of Guide and Belthorn villages, we contend that if the plan goes ahead, the Council will have shown negligence in their overriding duty to act in the interests of the local populace.

“The likely employment gains are minimal. The argument that destroying green belt land is essential does not in any way hold water.”

Lancashire Telegraph:

Concerns were also raised about the B6232 Grane Road which is said to be an "accident black spot" and how the impact of increased traffic would have a detrimental impact on rare wildlife.

Mr Simpson added: “It is estimated the amount of traffic flowing on a daily basis is just over a staggering 16,000 vehicles, for a B road.”

Lancashire Telegraph:

Year 5 pupil Sienna< of Belthorn Primary School, also read out a message telling of the need to proect the environment.

Group spokesperson Donna Simpson: “It has been a huge success with more than 1,000 signatures supporting the removal of the green belt from the local plan. 

“Almost 100 community members supported the march and their anger demonstrated their passion for protecting the greenbelt. 

“Paul Simpson's speech clearly highlighted the need for communities to come together and support objections to this plan. Thanks to everyone who supported us.”

Lancashire Telegraph:

Earlier this week, Blackburn with Darwen Council regeneration boss Cllr Phil Riley said: "There will be further consultation on the draft local plan and an inquiry into it, probably later this year, where they can put their case to a government planning inspector.

"If the land remains in the local plan there will be further opportunities to raise their concerns through the planning process."

Cllr Riley previously said there is no radioactive waste within 1km of the site, but other opposing councillors were less convinced by the proposals.

A Monte spokesperson previously said there is a "tremendous latent demand for new high quality employment units" in the area and the land is a "prime and sustainable location".