A NEW purpose-built kidney dialysis unit at the Royal Blackburn Hospital has been hailed as 'wonderful' and 'a massive improvement' by councillors.

The praise was lavished on the much-delayed development as it was given planning permission on Thursday night.

Work on the scheme, to replace an existing pre-fab cabin, will now start immediately with a scheduled opening date of February next year.

The long-awaited new ward at the Royal Blackburn, first promised for 2013, will have 24 dialysis stations and 18 parking spaces.

As Blackburn with Darwen planning committee gave the unit approval unanimously both Tory and Labour councillors praised the project, part of revamped provision across East Lancashire for patients suffering renal failure.

Chairman Cllr Dave Smith said: "It will be a massive improvement."

Blackburn South and Lower Darwen Conservative Cllr Jacquie Slater said: "It is such a wonderful thing."

Diaverum Facilities Management Ltd has promised to start work on the the single-storey Blackburn unit on land adjacent to the hospital in Old Bank Lane a soon as possible.

Another specialist renal unit is expected to open at Briercliffe Shopping Centre in Burnley in September.

Dialysis removes waste products and extra fluid from the blood and is given to patients whose kidneys have stopped working properly.

An officer’s report to the planning committee recommending approval with 14 conditions said: "The proposal will deliver a high quality, specialist health care facility that will provide essential life-saving care for patients with chronic kidney disease, closer to their homes.

“The purpose is to provide a permanent renal unit to replace a temporary prefabricated unit located near the site within the grounds of Royal Blackburn Hospital.which is now not suitable for use for patients, is too small and with no scope for expansion."