Residents and campaigners who will be affected by a huge industrial development in Blackburn have spoken out over traffic concerns.

Members of the Protect Our Greenbelt Belthorn and Guide have strongly objected to the 94-acre development which will straddle the Grane Road.

Over the past two years, campaigners have held demonstrations and hundreds have signed a petition calling for a re-think.

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

Developers said the plan's benefits include the creation of 650 jobs but opponents have raised issues including impact on the environment and traffic. 

The proposals are part of the Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council Local Plan which is expected to be formally adopted in this month.

Kathryn Sharpe, who is part of the campaign group, said: “We have always said there will be an increase in traffic at this junction which often backs up School Lane.

“There are huge traffic concerns at this junction as traffic is frequently queued and at a standstill backing up the B6232. There are also many concerns regarding safety at the school in Belthorn as queuing traffic uses Belthorn as a short cut from the B6232 causing a risk to the safety of children attending the school. 

“There are grave concerns that have been raised for the wildlife in the area which features red listed ground nesting birds such as curlew, lapwings and skylark, bat roosts and bat migration routes on the site.”

Campaigners said on their website they are not for profit and don't have any commercial interest in the council's plans, they 'just love their village and community and want to protect it'.

People have until Thursday to submit any comments to the planning department at Blackburn with Darwen Council.

CPRE, the countryside charity said in a statement to campaigners: "CPRE strongly objects to the release of farmland at junction 5 of the M65 motorway as part of the emerging Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council Local Plan. The harm to green belt is high due to the M65 being breached."

It adds: "The level of green belt and other harms is not clearly outweighed by the economic and public benefits. CPRE believes the site ought not to be included in the local plan for industry and warehousing due to the level of harms arising. It should not be only for warehousing which is low density development, taking in reduced jobs due to the sector increasingly becoming automated resulting in few jobs."

Late last year, local residents shared pictures of traffic from the Grane Road and Haslingden Road, backed up from Guide at junction 5 at the M65 junction 5 between 7.45am and 9.30am every morning. 

Lancashire Telegraph:

Residents said traffic was already cutting through Belthorn causing 'mayhem' for villagers and parents dropping children off for school at Belthorn Primary School. 

There were concerns that additional traffic would further add to this problem once the proposed industrial units are built.

In November, developers had launched a new website calling for residents and those with concerns to forward their comments.

Lancashire Telegraph: Online consultation is taking place between 30 October to 12 November.

The Central65 website which aims to clarify concerns and share further details of the plans says: “The emerging Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council Local Plan is expected to be formally adopted in January 2024. Its objective is to achieve balanced growth, which is socially and economically inclusive as well as environmentally sustainable.

“There is strong market requirement for employment land in the borough and surrounding area, which meets modern industrial and distribution business needs; is large enough to support existing businesses; and provides access from the motorway.”

It adds: “The need for a strategic employment site in the borough and the site’s location, with immediate accessibility to the motorway network, make it an outstanding opportunity to meet the longer-term employment needs of the borough and surrounding areas.”