AN ambitious £250million 10-year masterplan for Blackburn town centre including relocating the Morrisons supermarket to the cleared former Thwaites brewery site has been unveiled.

It could see 500 homes built, five new commercial buildings, the restoration of the fire-destroyed St John's Church as a flexible work-place for creative and digital enterprises and the refurbishment and reopening of The Fleece Inn.

The Morrisons multi-storey car park would be upgraded for public use while Blackburn’s EG Group will open a new petrol station with electric vehicle charging on the site of the Daniel Thwaites training centre in Penny Street next to the new Morrisons surface parking area.

Developments could include the building of the second office block in Cathedral Square and a new apartment block on the car park of Newspaper House, the former Lancashire Telegraph offices in Railway Road.

The masterplan would also see new green spaces, trees and shrubs dotted in and around the 12 acres of land identified for redevelopment.

Blackburn with Darwen Council regeneration boss Cllr Phil Riley hopes that 1,000 jobs could be created over the next ten years.

He said: “This is an exciting project. This is a really joined up plan that will revitalise the town centre.

“It is a perfect plan for Blackburn if it wins city status.

“For Morrisons it is logical to relocate from a store built in the 1980s which no longer meets 21st century standards.”

The local authority and its joint venture development partner Maple Grove, part of the Eric Wright Group, will bring forward details in 2022 as it assembles sites, works up planning applications and commences work on early development phases.

The first phases of redevelopment should start in summer next year.

The key first stage will be concluding negotiations, currently at an advanced stage, with Morrisons for the relocation of its supermarket and provision of a new car park for customers on the 7.4-acre site of Thwaites former Star Brewery.

This will enable the store site to be redeveloped with three groups of eco-friendly houses and flats while the council will take over its multi-storey car park and refurbish it for use by the public.

The next stage would be to build five new commercial units as business and technology workspaces for low carbon, green and renewable industries as part of a new town centre business district on the Brown Street and Penny Street car parks.

Blackburn with Darwen Council has purchased the Fleece Inn in Penny Street with a view to refurbishing the historic premises for reopening as a pub by autumn 2022.

The authority is to use the £3.75m insurance payout for the damage caused to St John’s Church in Victoria Street by a fire in April 2019 to create high-quality flexible workspace for small digital and creative enterprises to meet new agile working trends in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cllr Riley said the £250m global cost of the masterplan would come from a combination of the council, Maple Grove, and private investors.

It will also see 5G roll-out creating a ‘super-connected town centre’ and improved public open spaces and more cycle and pedestrian routes connected to the Leeds-Liverpool canal.

Cllr Riley said: “We are already speaking to a number of partners about delivering the different schemes outlined in this blueprint.

“Although our plans are ambitious we are confident this is an achievable vision that will be a game-changer in transforming the centre of Blackburn.

“It’s fair to say that town centres continue to face tough economic challenges as a result of the pandemic.

“We are realistic that any plans prepared now may need to flex and change over the years ahead.

“As people are going to live there, we need to green up the town centre.”

Simon Jones, growth director for the council, said: “The council is excited to be helping to bring this major opportunity forward. The important thing is we are bringing in variety of uses not relying on retail or any other single use.”

Andrew Dewhurst, development director for Maple Grove said: “We are pleased with the progress made since acquiring the brewery site earlier this year and are working with the council in developing a wider masterplan for the town centre building on our successful Cathedral Square development.”

A Morrisons spokeswoman said: “We remain fully committed to our current store in Blackburn and the customers it serves and have no immediate plans to change anything. We are in discussions with the council about potentially relocating the store in the future but are yet to make a final decision”.

EG Group declined to comment.

Conservative group regeneration spokesman Cllr Paul Marrow said: “We welcome that something is going to be done with the Thwaites brewery an old market sites.

“It shows confidence in the future of the town centre. This masterplan is a positive step for Blackburn and the borough.”

Paul Rothwell, Managing Director of Empire Property said: "Empire are committed to improving the quality of the housing stock & assisting with the regeneration of Blackburn.

"We are currently working with several stakeholders to assess the present day viability of the car park land at Newspaper House. We hope to be in a position to make a decision in early 2022."

The Bureau Centre for the Arts, now in ‘Daniels Thwaites’ old visitor centre on Penny Street after having to move from St John’s Church, will need to find a new home.

Further details of the masterplan will be published in January 2022 as part of the council’s Local Plan update.