A £5MILLION plan has been unveiled to transform one of Blackburn's most iconic buildings from a derelict shell into a restaurant, bar and theatre space.

The former Apollo cinema, also once the town's Cotton Exchange in King William Street, is set to be revamped into a centre for arts, culture and business by charity Re:Source Blackburn.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Charity bosses hope the three year project will enable the building to be used for presentations, community celebrations, showing films, with an auditorium for concerts, shows and art exhibitions.

Community leaders have hailed the plans as 'ambitious' and 'exciting'.

Re:Source Blackburn, who work with local church groups and Christian networks, completed the purchase of the building last September.

They said the purchase was made largely thanks to a £500,000 donation from their friends John and Rosemary Lancaster at The Lancaster Foundation, the group behind the transformation and restoration of the old cinema in Clitheroe into The Grand Theatre.

Alastair Murdoch, chair of trustees of Re:Source and Shadsworth GP, said "The Cotton Exchange has been a semi-dormant venue that has deteriorated over the last 10 years.

"Our vision is to save this magnificent Grade II listed building from continued dereliction, and see it flourish once again as a strategic venue.

"Even in its current state it is beautiful and awe-inspiring, but The Exchange when finished will inspire hope and raise aspirations in the town.

"We are really looking forward to working with the local community and business partners in seeing it come to life."

Another generous donation and loan came from the Cornerstone Development Trust.

Dr Murdoch said: "Throughout its life, this building has witnessed both prosperity and poverty and has also been a place of entertainment.

"All three strands are relevant to our vision.

"The refurbishment of the building would see this part of the town’s heritage once again becoming an asset.

"It would act as a vibrant, diverse and life-giving centre, putting on events for the town and making Blackburn the 'place to be'.

"It would be a venue to which people would be drawn, whilst also remembering and celebrating the history of the town."

Progress on the project will begin in March subject to applications for further funding and a condition survey of the building.

The project will be subject to consultation with nearby businesses and residents and a detailed business planning process.

Cllr Damian Talbot, Blackburn with Darwen Council's cabinet member for culture, leisure and young people, said: "It's an important building that has been out of use for too long.

"These are very exciting and ambitious plans which would add to the culture and economy of Blackburn.

"It would also be a boost to the night time economy of Blackburn."

Jason Walker is part of a group of DJs, pub workers and doormen who are campaigning to improve Blackburn's nightlife.

He said: "These plans sound just what Blackburn needs.

"Having more going on in the evening and attracting visitors can only help existing businesses and encourage more people to invest.

"I'm sure most people in Blackburn will be excited and encouraged that moves are being made to restore the building.

"It will be a shot in the arm for our town."