IT is unlikely Blackburn with Darwen Council will be able to fully restore the former St Johns Church, a council finance boss claimed.

The building, which was home the the Bureau Centre for Arts, was devastated by a huge fire earlier this year and though an extensive clean-up operation was carried out, work on restoring the building is yet to begin.

Executive member for finance and governance, Cllr Andy Kay, told his fellow councillors he did not think the council would be able to afford to restore it to the condition it was in prior to the blaze.

And he said the claim was in the hands of the insurance company – with a decision needed over the amount of money to be received before any real restoration work can begin.

Cllr Kay said: “It’s in the hands of the insurance company at the moment.

“We have got experts working on what needs doing to protect the building over the winter.

“I suspect it may be too expensive to bring it back to its original condition before the fire.

“If that is the case, we are going to look at how we can go forward with it.”

A devastating blaze ripped through the Bureau Centre for the Arts in Victoria Street, Blackburn, in April.

The building started out as The Church of St. John the Evangelist and dates back to the late 1700s.

The council-owned centre had a cafe space, a gallery, cinema and community use room, studios, community darkroom and a main space suitable for theatre, workshops, gatherings and events before the blaze, which was started by an electrical fault.

Following the fire, the centre directors along with Thwaites and Blackburn with Darwen Council, which owns fire-ravaged premises, have found it a new base.

It has taken over the ground floor and much of the upper-storey of ‘Daniel’s’ the company’s former Visitor Centre on Penny Street, opposite the vacant brewery site now being demolished. It will be back in operation in a few weeks.

The Bureau’s new home, close to its original church base, is being leased initially for six months at a reduced rent with an option to roll it over while repairs at St John the Evangelist are completed.

The fire destroyed much of the building and its contents and extensive repairs are needed to make it usable.

Cllr Damian Talbot, executive member for public health and wellbeing, said: “It is six months since the terrible fire at the St Johns Church building and the Bureau have been rehomed by Thwaites in the old visitor centre.

“In the time they have been there they have been rebuilding the programme and activities as well as raising funds for new projects.

“They have opened a mending café, hosted the summer parade and workshops, and are home to a dance school, a gallery, three community bands and a refurbished community darkroom.

“They have been successful in gaining funding from Arts Council England and Awards for all which will help replace some lost items from the fire and developing the programme going forward.”