THE first development on a retail park opened up by a long-delayed £7million link road could move a step closer to fruition.

Home Bargains is the first firm bidding to take up a place along the highway linking Blackburn’s £12m ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ to the town centre.

The scale of the proposed development backs town hall bosses’ hopes that the Freckleton Street link road, now dubbed Wainwright Way, would attract jobs and businesses when it finally opened in February last year.

The planning application for the development was lodged with Blackburn with Darwen Council earlier this year.

And now it is due to go before the council’s planning and highways committee next week, where planning officer Martin Kenny has recommended approval be granted.

The bridge itself opened in 2008 but problems over the demolition of the 18th century Police House in King Street, the purchase of the Blackburn Spiritualist Church and relocation of hundreds of graves delayed the highway scheme.

Borough regeneration boss Cllr Phil Riley said: “The Home Bargains development covers three of the plots on the left hand side as you come towards King Street. It would take up about half of the retail park.”

Cllr Riley added he was unaware if there had been any expression of interest in other plots on the site.

If the development goes ahead, it is expected to create 45 full-time and 35 part-time jobs, as well as others during construction.

The planning and highways committee will meet at Blackburn town hall next Thursday, when a decision will be taken on the application.

It is proposed that the store would open between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm on Saturdays and 10.30am to 2.30pm on Sundays and bank holidays.

Blackburn with Darwen Council’s executive board approved the sale of the land to the Eric Wright Group for several thousands of pounds last year.

The Preston-based company developed the borough’s £34m Cathedral Quarter, built the new £13m Blackburn Sports and Leisure Centre ahead of schedule and completed the much-delayed £5m bus station after the original contractor was dropped.

The firm proposes to turn the derelict land into a mix of shops, offices, light commercial units and student housing for the nearby Blackburn College by 2020.

When completed, the development will stretch from King Street and Chapel Street down Byrom Street and Freckleton Street towards Perseverance Mill and Canterbury Street.

The developer agreed to buy all six plots and develop them together at its own risk.