A FLAGSHIP company is to invest more than £30million in a cutting-edge production plant and research centre.

Perspex International Ltd is to create the manufacturing and development hub at its Chapels Park site in Darwen.

The investment in the latest eco-friendly technology by the historic firm's Swiss owners will secure 250 jobs.

It has been designed to make the production of the firm’s world-famous clear and coloured acrylic sheets energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly.

Perspex International’s operations director Bryan Welch said: “We are very, very excited about this.

“Everyone here is delighted at this investment in excess of £30m. We are talking about cutting-edge technology.

“This will secure the future of the 250 staff at our three plants at Chapels Park, Orchard Mill in Darwen and Walker Park in Blackburn.

“The new investment is good for the company, good for Darwen, good for our workforce and good for the planet.”

Blackburn with Darwen Council regeneration boss Cllr Phil Riley said: “This is brilliant news. This is investment in Darwen by a leading-edge flagship international company.

“It will secure 250 high-quality highly-skilled jobs.”

Darwen East ward’s Cllr Katrina Fielding said: “This is fantastic news, Perspex International is a very important firm to the town.”

Subject to planning permission, building of the production plant along with new offices and the research and development centre, will start in 2022 with a target completion of December 2023.

Production of Perspex, including for Spitfire fighter cockpits, began in 1940 when the firm was part of ICI.

Latterly it has been owned by INEOS Acrylics and Lucite International before being bought in 2019 by 3A Composites, an independent division of Swiss-based Schweiter Technologies AG.

Perspex International, who sponsored Blackburn Rovers in the 1980s, currently manufactures acrylic sheets, which are marketed under the brand names PERSPEX for clear and colourful sheets and ASTERITE for sanitaryware sheets.

The Chapels Park site will be expanded with a new cast sheet and composites plant next to the existing factories.

It will have a low environmental impact on water and energy consumption enabling the manufacture of sheets from 100 per cent recycled materials to meet the demand for sustainable products.

The new plant will enlarge the range of products produced at Chapels Park.

Mr Welch said: “Investing into a future-oriented production site marks a further milestone in the history of the well-known Perspex brand. The building of the new plant is part of an extensive investment program within the 3A Composites Group.”