A £3 million transformation is set for Blackburn Town Centre after the Townscape Heritage project was given the go ahead.
The news comes following confirmation of an award of £1.5 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) that will be matched by Blackburn with Darwen Council.
The project aims to restore and refurbish up to 25 historic buildings, create a new civic space, provide local people with training in traditional building skills and develop events and activities that celebrate the town’s rich history and heritage.
The project will focus on the Northgate Conservation area and include King George’s Hall and properties on Blakey Moor, Northgate and Lord Street West.
Set to run over the next five years, it will offer grants of up to 80 percent for conservation work to heritage buildings, to repair or reinstate architectural details and to help to bring vacant floor space back into commercial use.
A priority project will be the restoration of the Blakey Moor terrace. The Victorian terrace will be restored to its former glory externally and remodelled internally making it more suitable for restaurant use.
The statute of the People’s Champion, William Gladstone, will remain in situ against a softer background of planting and environmental improvements. This will see the area better defined with quality paving, improved lighting and a rebalance between pedestrian and vehicular use.
The ambitious project is an important part of the on-going regeneration and development of Blackburn town centre. As well as being home to some of the town’s best architectural assets, the area provides an important link between the College and the town’s retail core. The enhancement works will support retailers, cafes and pubs already operating within the area, as well as King George’s Hall, Blackburn Library and the College. New opportunities for restaurants and bars will also help to reinvigorate the towns evening and leisure economy and further establish this part of the town as a cultural hub.
In addition, the project will work in partnership with Blackburn College to deliver a heritage skills training programme, complementing their existing construction courses and helping to ensure future local trades people have the specialist skills and knowledge needed to take care of the town’s historic buildings.
A programme of events and activities will also take place to get people involved in the project.
Northgate’s historic connection to famous film makers, Mitchell and Kenyon will be celebrated and used to generate interest in the area. Heritage buildings will be illuminated as part of the town’s annual festive Lantern Parade and a new music and performance commissioned to reflect the town’s history and culture.
Councillor Phil Riley, executive member for regeneration at Blackburn with Darwen Council, said:
This is fantastic news for Blackburn and this scheme will really help make the most of King Georges Hall, a vibrant cultural asset. The project will add to the huge amount of regeneration and investment that is already taking place across the town centre which includes the new multi million pound leisure centre and the new bus station.
I think visitors and residents can’t fail to be impressed by the changes that are taking place in the town which are key to making Blackburn a place that is attractive to live, work and invest in.
Sara Hilton, Head of Heriatge Lottery Fund North West, said:
This is a really exciting moment in the regeneration of Blackburn and we are delighted to be playing our part. The town’s historic buildings provide a tangible link to a proud past and today’s news will ensure they play an equally important role in the future.
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