AN historic but derelict former school building is to be transformed into 43 apartments.

Work has just begun at the former Darwen Technical School on the corner of Knott Street and Union Street.

Nelson-based Barnfield Construction is carrying out the work on behalf of Novarise Properties Ltd after the project was put out to tender.

The work, which will cost about £1.4million, is expected to be completed just before Christmas.

Sunnyhurst councillor Dave Smith said it would be great to see the building brought back into use.

He said: “Hopefully the new owners will be committed to getting the work finished as it has been stop-start, stop-start over the years.

“When people start moving in there, it should boost the local economy with people shopping in the market and town centre so it is good news all round.”

Sudell councillor Roy Davies said he was delighted the work was going to be done.

He said: “It is absolutely brilliant news. This is exactly the sort of thing we want in the centre of Darwen.

“Let’s just hope it gets finished this time as there have been enough attempts at it. We have got to do something to get Darwen town centre back up to standard.

“Hopefully this will kick-start things and help bring some investment to the area.”

Founder of Darwen Days local history and heritage group Dave Owen said he couldn’t wait to see the renovated building.

He said: “That building is a big part of Darwen’s history and it has been sad to see it standing empty for so long.

“Hopefully the renovations will maintain its character while bringing an historic building back into use.”

The Victorian gothic building designed by Mr J Lane Fox opened in 1894 and the library, which was also based in the school building for a number of years, moved there in 1895.

Among the early pupils was James Hargreaves Morton, the artist killed in the First World War.

It was the Grammar School until 1939 and, in 1945, it reopened as the Secondary Technical School, obtaining college status in the 1950s. It became Darwen Moorland Lower School in July 1972 before it closed in 1995.