DOZENS of travellers' caravans could be settling on Oswaldtwistle's green belt if residents' fears are realised.
Over the past two weeks bulldozers and diggers have been ripping up a field off Sough Lane in Belthorn and laying a hardcore surface.
And residents living off Haslingden Old Road fear the two caravans already on the site could become 50 or more unless Hyndburn Council takes action.
One resident, whose home overlooks the site, said he and his family were sickened by the damage to the green belt and feared the area could be destroyed if the site became a permanent residence.
He said: "Hundreds of wagon-loads of earth have been taken away and all day they are busy levelling the site. The owners don't have planning permission to dig up the land and it's a big area. How can the council allow this?
"I bought this house for my family at a premium price because it's in the country and next to the green belt. Now they have come along and destroyed the green belt and damaged the bridleway which is next to a nature reserve."
The land is owned by a family who live in two portable caravans on the site next to two stables.
Oswaldtwistle councillor Doug Hayes said he was disgusted by the way the owners had flouted planning regulations and started work without permission.
He said: "They have gone ahead without any consideration for residents and once the green belt is destroyed it can't be replaced. Sough Lane is a bridle path and it has been damaged by huge trucks travelling back and forth and getting stuck.
"We need to stop the site becoming a permanent residence because if more caravans move on the site there's no buffer to stop Belthorn sprawling into Blackburn."
A man living on the site said he had bought the land and was only using it as a home for himself and his family and that he had submitted a planning application for the work he was carrying out.
A spokesman for the council said: "An application for the stables was received in August 2005 and was modified and passed in February of this year.
"The land is green belt and the land owner has visited the council to discuss a retrospective planning application which has to be submitted by Monday."