WORK has started on preparing a ‘masterplan’ for the future development of the Sunnyhurst Woods beauty spot.

It aims to assess its current assets,what needs to be upgraded and create document for grant funding bids.

The blueprint is being prepared by The Friends of Sunnyhurst Woods and Blackburn environmental consultants Newground.

The document, now out for consultation, looks at access to the woods, its heritage and structures, nature conservation and woodland management and recreation and public amenity

The time of Newground’s landscape and environmental specialists is being given free paid for by its charitable arm.

Suggested improvements in the draft plan include better drainage, less steep steps, handrails alongside stairways and steep inclines, thinner vegetation to improve visibility, improved signage and surfaces and safer access to the woods top paths.

The proposals also look at the control of beech regeneration,m eradication of Himalayan Balsam, the protection of notable and veteran trees, the thinning of the tree canopy to restore ground plants and flowers, the restoration of upland woodlands and work to reduce riverbank erosion.

It aims to promote walking, fun days, fishing volunteering, and promote heritage trails and community archaeology digs.

Sunnyhurst councillor and friends group committee member, Cllr Dave Smith, said: “This is a really important document.

“Our chairman Annette Sultana and secretary Hayley Kilpatrick have put a lot of work into this.

“It looks at the assets we have and the things we need to improve.

“We also need to have a masterplan for any bids we make for grants in the future, especially from the National Lottery.

“Sunnyhurst Woods is a great beauty spot for Darwen and has been for more than 100 years.

“This plan is about how we make the most of it for the rest of the 21st Century.”

Amelia Dew, landscape manager for Newground said: “This is a really exciting and important project to be involved with.

“The Woods are an amazing beauty spot and a fantastic asset to Darwen and the borough.”