TWO Conservative MPs have asked the government to look again at Blackburn with Darwen Council's Local Plan over the controversial release of protected 'Green Belt' countryside near Guide and Belthorn.

Hyndburn MP Sara Britcliffe and Rossendale and Darwen's Sir Jake Berry have written to communities secretary Michael Gove on the issue.

They want the cabinet minister to pause the release of the 94 acres of open land close to the M65's Junction 5 for use as an employment site because of residents' highway safety and traffic fears.

The planning blueprint for future development up to 2037 was adopted by Blackburn with Darwen borough's full Council Forum last month despite Jackie Copley from the CPRE Countryside Charity and resident Calista Mullin asking the meeting to withdraw the release of patch green belt land.

Now Miss Britcliffe and Sir Jake have asked Mr Gove to intervene and over-rule the council's approval of that part of the wider blueprint which was endorsed by his planning inspectors last year.

Blackburn's billionaire Issa brothers' property arm Monte Blackburn Ltd has submitted an outline planning application to develop a new "Central 65" business park on 45 acres of the land creating 1,000 jobs.

The MP's letter says: "We have been working together to support our constituents in the villages of Guide and Belthorn and are writing to ask for your assistance.

"There are concerns about the site where there are significant flaws in the council's Local Plan in relation to the release of green belt.

"We are supporting residents with their request that the release of the green belt be paused until the highway concerns regarding the B6232 Grane Road (the most dangerous road in Lancashire) are addressed and the capacity improvements at Junction 5 on the M65 have been completed.

"The congestion in the area continues to be severe and the traffic in the village of Belthorn has reached unsustainable levels.

"Residents have argued throughout the process that the council's transport evidence base to support the local plan was flawed.

"Residents commissioned their own professional traffic survey which took place at the end of November 2023. Their count showed a disparity with elevated figures using the B6232 Grane Road.

"National Highways is also asking for further modelling on Junction 5 roundabout to show that the improvement works will be enough to cope with the traffic generated."

A spokeswoman for Blackburn with Darwen Council said: “The new Local Plan has been rigorously inspected by the government’s planning inspectors.

“It’s important to stress that National Highways made no objection to the overall soundness of the Local Plan, or any of the specific sites identified.

“There is a shared agreement that improvements are needed in the area around Junction 5 of the M65 and £20million has been secured through the government’s levelling up fund to deliver those upgrades.

“The council’s extensive transport evidence base was also scrutinised by the planning inspectors.

“The independent survey commissioned by residents was submitted after the final deadline but we still reviewed that data.

“We found that the survey was undertaken over just one day – November 30 – and major incidents that morning resulted in the A666 and A56 both being closed during peak periods causing major disruption.

“The community is welcome to submit further survey evidence as part of the ongoing consultation on the live outline planning application.”