KEY town centre roads in Darwen will be closed on Friday and Saturday nights to enable restaurants, bars and pubs to set up seating outside, starting next weekend.

The aim is to ‘create an atmosphere’ and help local hospitality businesses recover from the coronavirus lockdown.

Outside space is also being created in Darwen Street, Blackburn, to make it safe for people visiting venues to social distance.

Promotion work including posters, leaflets, barriers and panels are being supplied to enable businesses to open safely.

Starting on Friday August 21, a section of Church Street/Railway Road and Bridge Street in Darwen will be closed from 7pm until 5am on Friday and Saturday nights.

Blackburn with Darwen Council has received government funding to help reopen the high street and these improvements will create safer and larger spaces outdoors for customers of the many restaurants and bars in the town centre.

These cash grants will pay for the equipment to enable the Friday and Saturday evening road closures which can be quickly installed and removed by highways staff.

The scheme aims to make it easier for businesses to serve food and drinks at outdoor seating despite coronavirus restrictions in the borough which mean customers must only visit restaurants, bars and pubs with members of their own household.

Darwen East’s Cllr Jane Oates, the borough’s lead member for growth, said: “We need to work together to fight the virus and prevent it spreading further. We want to support the local economy and jobs, while still ensuring we are all following government guidance.

“The outdoor seating areas will help businesses to promote social distancing but they still have a responsibility to ensure that customers do follow the guidance. Creating pop-up leisure spaces is a key government request to help the hospitality economy recover.”

Darwen East Liberal Democrat Cllr Paul Browne said: “I think it's a brilliant idea for the town.

“It will help create and atmosphere in Darwen and that’s what we need.

“At the moment the pubs in the town centre are a bit boring. I’m all in favour of it and I’ll bet half of Darwen is as well.”

Cllr John Slater, leader of Blackburn with Darwen Councils Conservative group, said “In many ways this is a good idea.

“But restaurant, bar and pub owners will have to make sure they keep the noise down and don’t throw open the doors and blast music out because of nearby residents. If they do that, I’m in favour of it.”