SHOCKED bosses at a food wholesalers turned up for work yesterday – only to find one of their vehicles had done a vanishing act.

During the night police had taken it away on a low loader so that vital sewer works could be carried out.

Imran Hussain, manager of A J Foods, was left angry because he says no warning was given.

He even reported the Mercades Sprinter van stolen to the police.

United Utilities who are carrying out the work said they had discussed placement of machinery with the community and police said they were investigating why their officers had removed the van.

Mr Hussain said large concrete bricks and metal railings had also been left blocking the entrance to the wholesalers.

He said the nocturnal activity had ‘crippled’ the company, leaving customers unable to manoeuvre trolleys out of the building and the business unable to make deliveries.

CCTV footage recorded by AJ Foods shows police putting cones out along Dickens Street at around 9.30pm on Sunday and the vehicle being removed at 1am.

A crane is later seen moving the concrete blocks in front of the entrance to the shop front at 7.30am - blocking the ramp used by customers.

Mr Hussain, 25, said: “It was a big shock and it has crippled our business.

“We thought the vehicle has been stolen and reported it to the police.

“The CCTV shows everything was done overnight and without any advanced warning.

“They should have had the decency to tell us about it or ask us to move the van on a certain day. Someone has done this deliberately and without warning.

“They say someone came round on Sunday to let businesses know but what is the point of a warning at the weekend when no-one is around.

“We have a business to run and it has effected us in a big way. Customers and our wagons have no where to go. It has really affected our trade.”

Last night the company was able to collect the van from a police pound, but had to pay a release fee of £150.

He said the van, one of a fleet of seven, was used to make daily deliveries. It had been parked next to road closure signs which stopped any through traffic.

Mr Hussain said: “We weren’t causing any obstruction. I think the police and United Utilities have been very sneaky.”

A spokesman for United Utilities said: “The van was taken by the police.

“A highway notice by Blackburn with Darwen Council has been enforced to allow us to carry our the works. The owners of the business were informed of this.

“The work has been ongoing in the area for a number of months in parts of Blackburn to upsize sewers to allow them to take more water during heavy downpours.

“Businesses have been attending residents’ meetings on an ongoing basis. They were notified of the need not to have vehicles on the road yesterday by staff from United Utilities and in a written format as well. Blackburn with Darwen Council have also advertised the road closure.

“Most people have been really understanding but this week we reluctantly had to ask police to come to the site and they decided to enforce the legal parking restriction, so that we can work effectively and get our work done for the benefit of the whole community.”

A police spokeswoman said officers recovered the van after reports of the vehicle obstructing the road She said: “We are aware and an investigation is currently under way to establish the circumstances surrounding the removal of the van.”