A GARDEN centre is set to make way for an apartment block and house despite fierce opposition from residents.

Councillors have backed plans for the redevelopment of Beardwood Garden Centre, Preston New Road, Blackburn.

Three separate petitions were submitted to councillors appealing for the proposals to be refused.

But councillors said they could not see any reason to refuse it because it conformed to all of their planning guidelines.

The first petition, containing 12 signatures, claimed it would lead to traffic congestion at peak times

The second petition, also with 12 signatures, claimed the creation of a two or three-storey apartment block, as outlined in the planning application, constituted a gross overdevelopment of the site.

It also claimed the site would lead to Preston New Road becoming more dangerous.

The third petition, containing six signatures, also argued that the development would be over-intensive.

Other letters were received from residents claiming there were already enough houses in the area and that the site was big enough for just the house, not a house and a block of apartments.

The applicant, the owners of Beardwood Garden Centre, said had been very successful at the site but needed to expand to a new location if their business was to continue getting bigger.

"It is the only way we can continue to compete in our market," they wrote in a letter to the meeting.

Their spokesman also told the meeting that the redevelopment constituted a brown field opportunity -- one where already developed land was put to new use rather than using a field somewhere -- and should be welcomed.

It also conforms to council regulations on the number of homes per hectare.

But Coun Paul Browne, a Lib Dem councillor who moved refusal of the application, said: "Everyone can see that a block of flats is not in keeping with this area.

"It isn't the only new building work going along this road. It all seems to be very piecemeal."

Coun Dave Smith said: "The garden centre, when busy, has created problems along the road and I cannot see how a block of flats could be anywhere as bad."

Coun Browne's bid for refusal was rejected and councillors voted the scheme through.

Earlier this year, they backed plans to demolish the County Hotel, further down Preston New Road, so its land could be used for houses.