A BOROUGH’S growth boss has warned that key employment and housing projects could be delayed by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

But Cllr Phil Riley said the signs of interest by developers in Blackburn with Darwen were ‘encouraging’.

He gave the assessment in a report to the council’s executive board meeting on Thursday outlining progress with the borough’s economic growth programme.

It was published as the council asked for bids to occupy business and commercial property on Carl Fogarty Way between Blackburn town centre and Junction 6 of the M65.

In his report Cllr Riley says: “The council’s strategy has delivered significant growth since 2015 by securing the delivery of over 1,300 new homes and 5,000 new jobs.

“To deliver this growth programme the council continues to identify and build a pipeline of projects which currently comprises over 200 sites with projects planned to be implemented over the short and long term.

“It should be acknowledged that the procurement and delivery stages for many of the housing, employment and strategic sites noted above have experienced some delay due to Covid-19. The scale of current and anticipated impacts of the pandemic and the related economic downturn on investor confidence and possible implications for our current delivery programme could be significant.

“Furthermore, there may be additional impacts as a result of Brexit. Despite this, the Borough remains committed to maintaining growth momentum, with encouraging early signs from local developer interest.

“A total of 301 housing completions for the year 2019/20 were recorded and 559 long-term empty properties brought back into use.

“Key employment and infrastructure schemes completed include: Ellison Fold Way, Darwen Market Square, Carl Fogarty Way and new commercial units at M65 Junction 4 Services. Key housing schemes are on site which will yield 1,700 units.”

Cllr John Slater, leader of the council Conservative group, said: "I think the council’s growth strategy is too aggressive. We need to bring forward schemes already in progress. We are building the wrong homes in the wrong places."

Cllr Riley said: "The growth strategy since 2015 has been a success in terms of houses and jobs. What we need to do now is reinvigorate it."