CONTRACTORS have been appointed as part of a £2.9 million project to open up Northgate to through traffic and improve access to King George's Hall.

Stretford-based J Hopkins Ltd has been appointed by Blackburn with Darwen Council bosses following a tender exercise.

The scheme will make Northgate two-way again and change the direction of travel on Tontine Street to give vehicles direct access to the entertainment venue off Barbara Castle Way.

Other changes in the project include the opening up of the Victoria Street end of Richmond Terrace; a new link road at Richmond Hill to give a direct exit onto Barbara Castle Way from the Mall; additional on-street car parking at Sudell Cross and Richmond Terrace; and improved pedestrian facilities across Barbara Castle Way to aid crossing between Whalley Range and the town centre.

J Hopkins Ltd will carry out carriageway surfacing work as part of the scheme.

Council growth and development director, Martin Kelly, said: "Blackburn with Darwen Council has been successful in its bid to open up streets around King George's Hall to boost business and entertainment in the area, with the bid to the Department for Transport's National Productivity Investment Fund being approved.

"The £2.9 million project aims to open up Northgate to through traffic at Sudell Cross to improve access to King George’s Hall and the new Reel Cinema development, as well as give direct access from Barbara Castle Way onto Tontine Street (one way direction changed) to provide easier access to local businesses and King Georges Hall.

"Pedestrian facilities between the Town Centre and the Whalley Range area will also be significantly improved.

"The project will remove vehicle congestion and conflicts, improve movement and access to significant new development sites, addressing issues which have been raised in previous consultations on Blackburn Town Centre.

"The programme of works will be completed in seven phases over the next 12 months. During the seven phases of this project there will be a requirement for new carriageway surfacing and as a result a tendering exercise has been undertaken to identify a suitable contractor."