A CENTRE for fighting internet crime is being proposed as part of the £25million vision for Brierfield Mill - creating 2,250 jobs.
Pendle Council leader Joe Cooney has confirmed that talks are underway to create the North-East Lancashire Cyber Security Business Park as part of the ambitious proposals for the former Smith and Nephew site.
The Lancashire Telegraph revealed last December how the landmark could house a marina, hotel and climbing centre, if an initial £5million funding could be found.
But much of the main mill was devoted to a business centre, which could house companies at the forefront of the fight against computer crime - and possibly a new Lancashire Institute of Cyber Security Training.
Andrew Stephenson, MP for Pendle, said the plans would help keep the most talented workers in the region.
He said: “Something like this is so important to our area.
“So many young people think they have to move away to one of the big cities so this will be a great way of keeping some of our most talented youngsters.”
Initial details of the cyber security park emerged last week during Business Secretary Vince Cable's visit to East Lancashire and the mill, now being marketed as Northlight, and he has backed the redevelopment.
The site, which was chosen because of its easy links to the motorway, would provide small and medium-sized businesses with online security packages.
Around 300 of the new posts would be for apprentices, with the other 1,950 roles ranging from support staff and cafe and restaurant workers, to the most highly skilled and paid professionals.
It is anticipated that the park could be up and running within the next 12 months, although it will take between five and 10 years for all of the jobs to be created.
Coun Cooney said: "There are discussions ongoing and there is certainly the potential that this may come off.
"There was always going to be considerable office space within the mill and this would fit within the masterplan.
"Cyber security is massive and costs the UK economy up to £2billion every year. It is not so much of a major issue for larger firms, who will have their own IT teams to deal with it.
"But when you are talking about small and medium-sized enterprises then they really need to protect their data. This could be huge."
He confirmed that Training 2000 had been involved in discussions over the cyber security campus, which could potentially attract hundreds of students from across East Lancashire.
He also said that creating 2,250 jobs was 'realistic' but that negotiations, involving PEARL (Pendle Enterprise and Regeneration Ltd), the council's development partnership with Barnfield Construction, were still at an early stage.
Talks with businesses interested in setting up in the mill have begun, but the names have not yet been confirmed.
Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle, the government’s apprenticeship ambassador to business, said the redevelopment would be excellent for the whole of Pennine Lancashire.
He said: “There is the plan of a big training establishment for training people to work in cyber security, which is absolutely brilliant.
“A very, very powerful business case has been put together for the site.
“This a major thing because we do not fight wars with guns anymore, we fight them in cyber space, so we need to be confident of stopping it and aware of how it affects companies.
“Companies overseas can also easily steal our ideas and intellectual property. It is a constant battle and we need people trained to do the job.”
Following his visit, when he toured the building with Mr Stephenson and borough chief executive Stephen Barnes, Mr Cable said: "This is a really exciting project. It’s a magnificent building bursting with potential.
"It’s a great idea combining housing, leisure, creating jobs – it will be good for the area."
The business secretary told a meeting of regulators and intelligence chiefs in February that more needed to be done to protect IT systems from attacks by criminals and terrorists.
He said there was a growing threat of disruption to everyday life. The government and regulators have put forward a 10-point plan for cyber security, which includes malware protection and incident management.
Tim Webber, Barnfield's managing director, said: "It was important to show the minister the practical plans which have now been developed for the site and the enormous potential for jobs and growth they have for the area."
Coun John David, the council's deputy leader, added: "I am hopeful Mr Cable will now assist us in unlocking funding opportunities, which will help us to realise Northlight’s huge potential."