A controversial plan to build 165 new homes in Blackburn has been given the green light despite attracting 78 objections.

Members of Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council’s highways and planning committee tonight voted 9-5 in favour of granting outline planning application for the Whalley Old Road development.

Outline planning permission is often applied for first, to establish whether the proposed new dwelling or development would be acceptable to the local planning authority. If outline permission is approved, a detailed proposal is then put forward.

Applicant and agent Graham Trewhella, speaking on behalf of Cass Associates, said the site was “the right place for new housing in Blackburn”.

“It is a well-contained and discreet parcel of land,” he added.

“It is a sustainable location and is appropriate. The consultees have no objections and the impact on roads is satisfactory.”

The objections registered with the council included concerns about the impact on traffic and the road system, pollution, wildlife and the loss of green open space.

However, the committee’s members were mostly concerned about the safeguarding allocation of the site relating to potential mineral deposits, and that the land had not yet been formally adopted into the local plan for the borough.

Planning officer Gavin Prescott told the committee that there were no technical issues with the application.

“The proposed development is considered to be acceptable,” he said.

“Two new junctions onto Whalley Old Road would be needed, with the 30mph limit extended eastwards, the developer will contribute £250,000 towards the new junctions while a contribution of £330,000 will go towards improving sustainable transport and subsidise bus services to Sunnybower for 10 years.”

The site is adjacent to Blackburn Chemicals whose bosses flagged up concerns about neighbouring houses.

“The objection from Blackburn Chemicals relate to it being a 24-hour operation and the impact this will have on future operations,” Mr Prescott explained.

“However, there will be a buffer zone and all these issues will be addressed in the next planning application stage for reserved matters.”

More than 300 residents have signed an online petition against the development.

Councillor Paul Marrow pointed out that the land had been designated as a Mineral Safeguarding Area and questioned why no report about any deposits underground had been submitted with the application.

“If there hasn’t been a report then we should kick this out,” he said.

“It makes you wonder how many other sites we haven’t done that for.”

During the meeting, held virtually on Microsoft Teams, the planning officer clarified that “most of the borough” was covered by a Mineral Safeguarding Area, and that a full investigation would be carried out during the next phase of planning.

The council owns around 52 per cent of the land covered by the development with the remaining owned by private landowner Sheila Jacques and Anglo Eastern Trust Ltd.

Councillor Derek Hardman, who voted against the development, said the plan was 'an absolute shambles', and claimed the authority was attempting to cash in on the land by selling up.

“The council owns a good portion of it; it’s a good chunk of money and I think it’s all about putting money in the council’s coffers,” he said.

Councillor Paul Browne, who also voted against approval, said “we are going to be a borough full of concrete”.

“I wouldn’t like to buy a house next to a chemical site.”

Councillor Dave Harling said he was 'totally bemused' by the objections.

“Think what mineral extraction on that site would be like and the impact on the residents living opposite,” he said.

“The impact of housing would be a far lesser impact than minerals extraction. I am sure they (objecting councillors) haven’t raised this issue of a Minerals Safeguarding Area on another other applications.”

Councillor David Smith, the chair of the committee, said: “As (planning officer Gavin Prescott) has outlined there is no reason why this (site) couldn’t be developed”.

Councillors Paul Browne, Derek Hardman, Jacqueline Slater and Paul Marrow voted against the development while Councillors David Smith, Hussain Akhtar, Jim Casey, Zamir Khan, Suleman Khonat, Dave Harling, Jane Oates, Phil Riley, and Yusuf Jan-Virmani all voted in favour.