BLACKBURN College has announced plans for a multi-million pound sports complex in the town centre for both students and residents.

The scheme, scheduled for completion by the end of next year, includes two sports halls, a gym and changing rooms.

Talks are also taking place to redevelop the council’s 23-year-old Waves Water Fun Centre and swimming baths as part of the project, creating a much larger leisure com-plex.

The development, set to cost around £8 million, would be another key part of the regeneration jigsaw for the town centre.

The college is advertising for an architect to draw up detailed plans for the project stretching from land next to the Waves car park to the bottom of the college campus near St Anne’s School on Fielden Street.

The project has been welcomed by Blackburn MP Jack Straw who said: “This is an excellent scheme. This further regeneration of the town centre is good news.”

College bosses stressed the ‘state of the art’ leisure complex would be open to residents as part of its commitment to regenerate the town centre and develop high-quality facilities for its 15,000 students.

Principal at Blackburn College, Ian Clinton, said a strategy was in place to raise the money for the scheme and talks were ongoing with Blackburn with Darwen Council and the Youth Zone.

He said: “The European Journal notice is to engage a design team so we are in the relatively early stages of the project. We are investigating the practicalities of building the sports facility and the associated costs.

“We are also working in partnership with the Youth Zone and its new facilities to ensure that our students have access to high quality sports facilities whilst the development on the campus is designed and completed.

“It’s essential we continue to invest in state-of-the-art facilities which will benefit future generations. This project is an exciting addition to the town centre.”

Blackburn with Darwen council leisure chief Damian Talbot said: “I think this would be a great development for the town centre. It is an excellent move for the college.

“It is important for its students to be fit and healthy, but the council is committed to helping all residents of the borough to be fit and healthy. We are strongly committed to working in partnership with the college.”

Blackburn College, founded in 1888, has doubled its numbers in the last 10 years and invested £50 million into its student campus in the last 10 years, including a dedicated Sixth Form Centre, University Centre and the £18m Beacon Centre vocational teaching facility.

The College is also investing a further £7 million into a world-class STEM Futures Centre, to open in September 2013, providing laboratory facilities and workshops for maths, science and engineering studies.

The contract to design the new complex, advertised as £8 million, is valued at £235,000.

The sports complex is the latest step in redeveloping central Blackburn following approval of plans for the £28 million Cathedral Quarter covering the Boulevard, the construction of The Mall shopping centre and new market, and the green light for a £5million new bus station in Ainsworth Street.

The redevelopment of ‘Margo Towers’ off Fleming Square as Cathedral Court is now complete while the council, Thwaites and Sainsbury’s are in negotiations over a possible superstore on the Old Market and Star brewery sites.