THE revamped Witton Park athletics arena is on course to open next year after two major steps towards making the £2million upgrade dream a reality.

Blackburn Harriers secretary George Davies said he was delighted the borough council had now applied for planning permission for the long-awaited renovation and put the contracts for the work out to tender.

Pendle Tory MP Andrew Stephenson said the key moves were ‘great news’ for East Lancashire’s 2012 London Olympics’ legacy.

The scheme, under consideration since 2008, looked doomed in 2010 when the cuts in local authority budgets began to bite - but work is now due to start in the spring.

But in August, Blackburn with Darwen Council Labour leader Kate Hollern personally approved the upgrade and £2million spending.

The plans submitted by the borough include:

  • A new build athletic facility to include indoor 60m sprint track, changing facilities, first aid/physio room, fitness suite, and dance studio
  • The first total resurfacing of the outdoor running track since 1984.
  • Improved drainage for the field events area including relocating the pole vault.
  • Covered spectator seating.

The project follows the London 2012 Games’ success of Blackburn Harriers’ athletes Samantha Murray from Clitheroe, modern pentathlon silver medallist; Burnley’s Sophie Hitchon, who broke the British record to qualify for the hammer final; and Chorley’s Holly Bleasdale, sixth in the pole vault. Mr Davies said: “This is fantastic progress. We hope that the work will be finished by spring next year. This is Kate Hollern being true to her word.”

Coun Hollern said: “Money is extremely tight at the moment and all public services are expected to make more cuts. However, this is an important initiative that demonstrates the council’s commitment to health and well being for the people of Blackburn with Darwen”.

Mr Stephenson said: “This is great news for sport in East Lancashire and a major step forward in providing a lasting Olympic legacy for the area’s young people.”

Borough leisure boss Damian Talbot said: “The sports village will be a great addition to Witton Park; hopefully it will give the area a boost as well as bringing residents together to enjoy the new facilities.”