CONTROVERSIAL plans to expand an out-of-town retail park are back on the table.

Two years ago protests from Blackburn and Hyndburn successfully fought off proposals to develop Whitebirk retail park.

In the £16million plans, Manchester-based Peel Holdings wants to increase the range of shops on the retail park on the Hyndburn-Blackburn boundary.

At the moment only goods such as DIY and home improvement products or bulky goods can be sold there, but bosses said they are now confident that they will be successful in a bid to put in place a range of food and fashion retailers there.

This move has been slammed by retailers who said that expansion at the retail park would damage Blackburn and Accrington town centres.

Bosses at Peel, headed by Rossendale-born John Whittaker, said developing the Whitebirk site would “complement” nearby town centres.

And they said that more than 250 new jobs could be created in the scheme.

The plans would see the refurbishment and modernisation of units across the park, including the subdivision of the larger unit, as well as improved car parking and pedestrian routes, additional access off Whitebirk Drive and landscaping, lighting and CCTV.

A Peel spokesman said: “This is an important development for Hyndburn in terms of job creation, as well as securing a healthy future for Whitebirk Retail Park.”

Blackburn town centre jeweller Phil Ainsworth, of A Ainsworths and Sons, Darwen Street, said: “It is bad news for Blackburn and Accrington town centre.

“Anything that attracts large stores and businesses that are in the town centre to the retail part may deplete the town centres”