CAMPAIGNERS have been given a massive boost in their bid to protect Green Belt land in Huncoat.
In a sensational day of developments, residents persuaded three key groups to re-think plans to build a road through the village to serve a proposed waste recycling plant.
But despite the progress, villagers said they fear they have lost the battle to stop the plant from being built on the old power station site of Altham Lane.
On Tuesday morning, at least six protesters from residents' group Huncoat Voice travelled to Preston for a meeting of Lancashire County. Council's Development Control Committee, which was due to determine an application for the plant and an access road to it.
More than 300 people had writen to the council objecting to the idea.
They got their first good news of the day when five councillors on the committee expressed concern about the Highways Agency's failure to consider an alternative access option - extending junction 8 of the M65 and building a road from there to Whinney Hill tip.
At the meeting, Councillor Matthew Tomlinson said: "I have to say it is a huge concern that the building of an access road through Green Belt land is really dependent on an unelected body like the Highways Agency.
"They are not going to tell us why they are not going to build this road [off the M56], but we as councillors must make a decision and take the flak for it. I just find it all very worrying."
Other councillors agreed. They voted to defer the decision to allow more talks to take place with Highways Agency bosses.
But none of the committee members voiced opposition to plans for the plant itself. Camp-aigners reacted by saying it is probably too late to prevent it.
After the meeting, Huncoat Voice campaigners Reid Lewis and Louise Burton rushed to London by train to meet Hyndburn MP Greg Pope, Roads Minister Dr Stephen Ladyman and Bruce Parker, of the Highways Agency's network strategies department.
All parties said afterwards that further talks would take place to discuss the M65 junction extension idea.
Mrs Burton said: "We have had a very successful day. The minister listened to us and he spoke with the Highways Agency representative before we arrived and after we left. It was definitely worth the journey.
She added: "It is apparent now that LCC is in support of the waste plant and it will be almost impossible to convince it otherwise. The best we can hope for is stopping the road.
"But on this issue we have managed to get the attention of LCC, the minister and the Highways Agency so we must be making progress."