DIGGERS have rolled in at the former Thwaites site and have started demolishing the building.

The 210-year-old brewery is now coming down as demolition workers set about razing the building on Starkie Street.

Production of ale ended in May last year and was transferred to the company’s new home in Sykes Holt, near Mellor Brook.

The iconic tower, a major feature of Blackburn’s skyline, will be one of the last parts to be demolished.

Blackburn with Darwen Council wants to see a mixed-use of the seven acres of land.

These include residential, leisure, restaurants and cafes, pubs and bars, and employment as their preferred choices.

Thwaites wishes to see the land designated for shops.

Cllr Phil Riley, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s regeneration boss, said: “The Thwaites site has been a landmark in Blackburn town centre for many years.

“There has been a long association with the brewery, Thwaites and the town. It is sad to see this has come to its end.”

Brewery bosses want to make the site secure and safe and prevent it becoming an eyesore in the town centre.

Speaking to the Lancashire Telegraph last month, Mark Jackson, of developers Cushman & Wakefield, agent for Thwaites, said: “The site is now vacant and prior approval has been given for demolition of all buildings and structures within the site.

“The site is surrounded by a range of commercial town centre uses comprising a car showroom, redundant public house, bus station, retail units, a redundant medical centre, a benefit office, supermarket and industrial units.”

The old stables block and the firm’s technical services block, a former pub, will be retained as they are in the Eanam Wharf Conservation Area.

The now-closed Fleece pub and the former visitors’ centre in the premises, once used by The Waterloo at the corner of Penny Street and Barbara Castle Way, will also be kept.

Two pubs ­— Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which closed more than a decade ago, and The Veteran, on Salford, which has not traded for 10 years ­— will also be demolished.

The brewery hopes The Fleece Inn on Penny Street can be revived, possibly as a bar.

Travellers invaded the site in May last year, causing £300,000 worth of damage and forcing bosses to switch ale production to the Sykes Holt site earlier than planned. The gang was later jailed for eight years in total.