PLANS to turn a former town centre bank into a heritage centre are gathering pace.

Darwen Town Council is to seek permission from the Government to borrow money to buy the old HSBC bank in The Circus.

As a parish council, Coun Brian Taylor, who has been leading the controversial project, said they must have the Government’s permission to take out a long-term mortgage.

Coun Taylor told colleagues he had agreed a ‘bargain’ deal for the prominent building but had been advised by the estate agents that another party had expressed interest in buying it.

He said: “I am getting a bit twitchy because the estate agents tell me there are other parties interested. I want us to move on this and purchase the building.

“At the end of the day, if all else fails, we would have a building of our own that we could sell if it doesn’t come off and I am sure we would recoup our money.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Roy Davies argued: “We don’t need this building. Darwen is a heritage centre as it is.”

Coun Taylor also responded to comments from the Friends of Darwen Library, who wrote to the council detailing an alternative suggestion to transform the reference library and non-fiction area of the building into a museum.

Group secretary Harold Heys wrote: “We are unanimous that the idea of a separate Darwen heritage centre or museum would be a very expensive non-starter.

“The library has long been one of the finest buildings in the town centre and that is where we should be looking for a heritage display area.”

Coun Taylor said: “I have got to say I am dismayed and disappointed with the disparaging tone of the letter.

“I am very grateful for the efforts and work of the Friends of Darwen Library but what they are proposing is a very poor second choice and it is not in the same league as what I want to achieve.”

A motion to seek permission to borrow the cash needed was passed after all Labour members voted in favour of it on Tuesday night, while the opposition Liberal Democrats were against the idea.

The money for a deposit on the building, listed for sale at £150,000, would come from existing council reserves.