A NEW £6.5million eight-screen independent cinema is set to open in Blackburn.

It will be built on the former Waves Water Fun Centre in Nab Lane, which was demolished last year, and include three food and drink outlets including a licensed bar.

The new cinema, the town's second, will be built by Blackburn with Darwen Council and leased to a major independent operator for 20 years.

This will pay back the £6.5milion capital cost but leave the borough with the freehold.

Cllr Phil Riley, council regeneration boss, believes the new complex will bring in more visitors and boost the night-time economy.

He said it would complement rather than compete with the mainstream 10-screen Vue Cinema on the Peel Retail Park near the railway station.

Harriet Roberts, manager of Blackburn's Business Improvement District, hailed the news as 'another positive sign' of the town's leisure revival.

However Blackburn Chamber of Trade president Tony Duckworth and borough Conservative group boss Cllr John Slater expressed doubts over whether two major cinemas close together could both remain viable,

Waves swimming complex closed in 2015 after 29 years when the new Blackburn Sports and Leisure Centre opened its doors, with the 0.94 acre site off Feilden Street becoming a car park.

Blackburn with Darwen Council's executive board has now approved the new cinema scheme and the £6.5 million capital spending.

It was told that after a competitive tender an agreement was in place for one of the four leading independent operators to lease the single storey building on a 20-year full running and maintenance basis.

The new plan is the latest part of the borough's scheme to regenerate the town centre and its night-time economy.

It follows the announcement last weekend of the reopening of the Liquid and Envy nightclub in St Peter Street as 'Nocturnal'.

Several bars have recently opened in Blackburn and the central area now has four new restaurants, The Thyme, Turtle Bay, and Cafe Northcote in the Cathedral Quarter and Nando's in the Vue complex which now also hosts a 10-pin bowling alley.

Cllr Riley said: "This is a major project and addition to our plans for the town centre and its nightlife.

"We have secured a major independent operator on a deal that will pay for itself over 20 years.

"Film is a growth leisure area and we believe, having done research, the new complex will complement rather than compete with Vue and make Blackburn a destination for cinema goers with a real choice of films.

"It is a highly suitable leisure use for the site of Waves and supports our plans for that side of the town centre."

Cllr Slater said: "I am happy at the ambition of the council but concerned about the scale of its investment and the risk involved.

"This is a reputable operator but if the cinema is not a success we could be left with a considerable liability and a building suitable for only one use."

The council aims to sign a contract shortly, apply for planning permission in August, complete construction in April 2019 for opening in July.

A study on the catchment population within a 20-minute drive time of the proposed site, including the nearest cinema locations at Burnley, Preston and Bolton, estimated if Vue admissions were deducted there was another 198,990 cinema admissions available.

Mr Duckworth said: "This will be an important draw to the town centre and a boost to its night-time economy.

"However I am concerned that Blackburn will not be able to support two cinemas. Look at how The Apollo closed after Vue opened."

Mrs Roberts said: “This is another positive sign that businesses are looking to invest in Blackburn and that they see the town as a great location for leisure based operations.

"We hope this will encourage more people to travel to the town to enjoy the growing number of restaurants, bars and recreational activities available.”