THE BNP is searching Burnley and Padiham for an office as its North West headquarters.

National leader and newly elected MEP Nick Griffin has instructed party officials to look for suitable accommodation which will become their base for the whole region.

Derek Dawson, a BNP councillor on Burnley Council, is now drawing up a list of potential sites which will be paid for from Mr Griffin’s £180,000 European parliament allowance for an office base.

Party bosses said they would prefer premises in Burnley town centre but they were also considering other sites.

Already they have looked at Padiham Town Hall and a run-down pub, the Derby Arms, near the M65, which was recently bought by Burnley Council.

The move has been condemned by the town’s MP Kitty Ussher and Burnley Council’s leader Gordon Birtwistle has warned it could “drag the town down”.

However, Coun Dawson, a BNP councillor since 2006, insisted it would be good for Burnley, creating several jobs.

Coun Dawson spent Wednesday in Manchester with Mr Griffin as the BNP leader prepares to take up his £60,000 a year role in Brussels.

And yesterday, Coun Dawson was contacting letting agents across Burnley as he headed up the party’s search for accommodation, which could be up and running as soon as next month.

He said: “We are looking for properties in the town centre and that will bring some jobs to the town.

“Padiham Town Hall was a possibility but it is now fully let. We are also interested in the Derby Arms in Padiham Road but it is now owned by the council and is in a state, so it is not top of the list.”

He said he had also spoken to bosses at the Network 65 business park during his hunt for office space.

Coun Dawson insisted there had been “no problems” when letting agents were told what the premises would be used for.

And he also denied the office would bring unwanted attention to Burnley, possibly in the form of anti-BNP protests.

Coun Dawson said: “It is the police’s job to look after councillors, elected MEPs and the public.

“Burnley is central for the North West and we have had councillors here for a few years so it is a good place for the base.”

Nationally the BNP has a number of offices but a spokesman refused to reveal exact locations saying they could be targeted by protestors.

Burnley’s first BNP member was elected to the borough council in 2003 and the party now has four councillors, along with two on Pendle Council.

Last week, Burnley group leader Sharon Wilkinson was also elected to Lancashire County Council to represent Padiham and Burnley West after unseating Labour cabinet member Marcus Johnstone.

However, the disclosure that the party is now looking for a Burnley base for Mr Griffin, who has no previous East Lancashire links, was described as ‘saddening’ by MP Mrs Ussher.

She added: “The worry is how this will be perceived by people outside the town.

“We are a fantastic community in great countryside with a great football team and now we will be seen as the BNP capital.”

Coun Birtwistle added: “This would drag the town down if it happened.

“Mr Griffin may be democratically elected but we do not want the problems that the BNP brings to places.

“Burnley is on the up, thanks to things like the football team and the new university, and we don’t want anything to disrupt that.”

Julie Cooper, Labour group leader on Burnley Council, said she was also unhappy.

She said: “The BNP are deluding themselves because their vote has dropped in Burnley in the past few elections.

“We have just had a wonderful few months and now we could be dragged back into the mire.”

A Burnley Council spokesman confirmed all available office space at Padiham Town Hall had now been let.

The council bought the dilapidated Derby Arms pub, in Padiham Road, in April. Previously its car park has been used for BNP advertising boards.

Nick Aves, the council’s resources director, said the building would probably be demolished and the area regenerated but admitted he could not “rule anything out or in”.

Yesterday, Mr Griffin was unavailable for comment.

He has spent much of this week touring Britain following his controversial election to the European parliament.

Last Sunday, he was met by protests as he made his way to Manchester Town Hall for the election count.

And earlier this week he was pelted by an egg during a visit to London.