A COUNCIL and its contractor have been condemned after a host of wild poppies growing near a new link road were cut down.

The bright red flowers had sprung up along the side of Ellison Fold Way in Darwen.

Their appearance delighted residents who posted their appreciation and pictures on social media.

Last week the poppies, at the Marsh House Lane end of the new highway, were cut down by contractors Eric Wright Group.

Their destruction caused a storm of protest against the company and Blackburn with Darwen Council on Facebook.

Eric Wright Group said the poppies had self-seeded too close to the road for safety and sightlines and promised to plant many more in a special wildflower meadow later this year.

Cllr Phil Riley, the council’s highways boss said cutting them down was ‘unfortunate but understandable’.

Darwen East’s Cllr Roy Davies dismissed the argument for destroying the poppies as ‘rubbish’.

Les Richardson, who took the photos of the poppies with this article, posted on Darwen Then and Now: “Before and after. Well done BwD.”

Anne Welding said: “Unbelievable!!!! What a waste.”

Clair Aspin posted: “Vandalism pure and simple.”

Margarita Pickup said: “They were beautiful and not causing anyone any harm.”

Dorothy Flanagan posted: “What a disgrace.”

A spokeswoman for Eric Wright Group said: “The poppies growing to the side of Ellison Fold Way were naturally self-seeded. They had not been planted by our landscaping contractor.

“The final and permanent landscaping / seeding work is underway. This will include the sowing of a wild flower meadow seed mix, which includes poppies, and other English meadow flowers (chamomile, cornflower and marigold).

“This mix however will not be used directly to the edge of the road, where a two metre wide mowing strip needs to be maintained to keep the new road clear of vegetation. Unfortunately, most of the self-seeded poppies were growing within this mowing strip, hence why they have been cut back.”

Cllr Riley said: “The poppies were beautiful but there needs to be a corridor clear either side of the road for good sightlines."