VITAL £3.8million funding for a new road bridge, which is set to kick-start a 2,000-job business park project for Burnley, has been secured.

The £50million Burnley Bridge business park, off junction nine of the M65 at Hapton, could generate between 1,600 and 2,000 jobs.

Question marks had hung over funding, particularly for a gateway bridge over the Leeds Liverpool Canal.

Potential funding from the North West Development Agency disappeared earlier this year when the organisation folded.

It has now been confirmed that the European Regional Development Fund will provide £3.8million for the project, the brainchild of Leeds-based Eshton Developments.

Work is now set to begin on preparing the 70-acre Pollard Moor site, formerly home to chemical giants Hepworth’s, in the first quarter of next year.

Council leader Coun Charlie Briggs said: “The council worked tirelessly to make this happen and all the hard work and effort has paid off.

“We worked closely with Eshton to assist them in putting together their bid and our support has helped bring forward this money.

“This site is a prime grade ‘A’ development, which will put Burnley firmly on the key regional development sites list used by the top commercial property agents, who are currently experiencing a lack of supply of large quality sites.”

Steve Rumbelow, the borough council’s chief executive, added: “Burnley Bridge is the largest of several state-of-the-art developments underway in Burnley. The Burnley Knowledge Park and Burnley Technology Park are also set to attract new businesses.”

Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle added: “This is fantastic news for Burnley - I keep saying that we are on the up.

“This will create another large industrial estate, just off the motorway, virtually opposite Network 65, which will hopefully bring 2,000 jobs to the area.”

Early indications were that gifts firm Findel were going to be the anchor tenant for the business park.

But the proposals were later revised and the developer is now in talks with other companies over providing smallers units for the initial phase.

Councillors have told Eshton that work must be completed on the bridge before the majority of tenants occupy the site.

James Chapman, Eshton’s managing director, said: “This is a massive regeneration scheme for Burnley, which will have significant benefits for the local economy and community, especially in these challenging economic times.

“I would like to thank the council for all their support in helping us to secure this funding.

"We will continue to work closely with the council to deliver sustainable employment in an excellent strategic location.

“There is already significant interest in the park from both national and local companies and we are in advanced talks with a number of parties.”

“At a recent meeting in Manchester with some of the key regional property developers the opportunities of Burnley Bridge were presented and we hope to receive some quality relocation enquiries as a result of the meeting.”

The moorland site was also set to be home to a new mental health hospital before Lancashire Care scrapped plans.

Housing has also been earmarked for the north-west corner of the land.