A GRADE II-listed theatre that has stayed empty for more than 20 years has been bought by a friends group.

The Burnley Empire theatre has been bought by the Burnley Empire Limited, a company owned by the Burnley Empire Theatre Trust (BETT) which will work to revive it.

The theatre, which has been on the at risk register since 2006 and has been vacant since 1995, was taken over by the group with support from the Theatre's Trust, National Trust, David Wilmore from consultants at Theatresearch, and an anonymous donor.

Sophie Gibson, Burnley Empire Limited's director, said the group will make it a venue "the whole town can be proud of."

It was feared the building might be lost as it was due to go to an auction this week.

The Duchy of Lancaster had offered BETT the theatre for £1 in 2015, but the group were not in a position to take on the project.

However this time round the duchy's original offer was matched by the trust.

The group will now look to carry out a full condition survey and fundraise for any immediate repair works and the longer-term restoration project.

Sophie Gibson, director of Burnley Empire Limited, said: "We are excited to finally own the building that we all care about so much.

"It has been a hectic couple of weeks as there were lots of things to put in place to enable us to take on the building.

"We’d like to thank everyone who has supported us so far.

"We have a lot of hard work ahead of us, but we believe that Burnley Empire has a bright future.

"We’d urge any individuals or businesses who want to support the project to get in touch.

The Empire is the sole survivor of five variety music halls in Burnley and the only purpose-built Victorian theatre of its kind in East Lancashire.