A MAJOR bid to create new performance spaces at Burnley Mechanics is back on track.

Borough councillors have been told that progress has been made on a £3million bid to overhaul the Manchester Road venue.

An application to the National Heritage Lottery Fund has received initial backing and detailed proposals for the Mechanics upgrade will be submitted before the end of the year.

Under the tag of MI:Space, the concept is to bring a number of closed-off areas, within the mid-19th century building, back into use, potentially as new dance studios and workshops.

A new roof and the opening out of the grand staircase, from the first floor auditorium to the foyer, have also been discussed.

Part of the wider scheme would also see disabled access improved

Cllr Ivor Emo, the borough council’s executive member for housing and leisure, said: “This is wonderful news and a positive step forward for this exciting project.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the bid is ultimately successful and our ambitious plans for the further development of the Mechanics Theatre can become a reality.”

An approach is also being made to the Arts Council for a further £180,000 for the Mechanics, which would result in better seating and performance lighting.

In recent years the building has seen some substantial upgrades, with the introduction of a new bistro and bar several years ago and the creation of a new basement studio.

But the last complete refurbishment was at the end of the 70s, according to management, before it was reopened by The Queen.

Specialist conservation work is well underway on repairs to the roof for the neighbouring Burnley Town Hall, which dates back around 130 years.

Councillors have previously set aside £350,000 on the project, which has seen the building sheathed in scaffolding for months. An extensive renovation programme was also drawn up for the clock tower, a more recent addition to the town hall.

Burnley Mechanics Institute, as it was originally known, was first opened in 1855 and was designed by Todmorden architect James Green to provide educational and cultural facilities to the town’s rapidly expanding workforce.

While it became the focus of Burnley’s cultural life for more than a century, by 1959, with changing social values, the Mechanics was mothballed.

Council chiefs stepped in to revive its fortunes and the complex served as a home for concerts, ballroom dancing and bingo, even hosting a youthful Tom Jones.

English Heritage gave the sandstone Palazzo style landmark a grade II * listing in September 1977.