A NEW £60million skills and education campus next to the former Thwaites Brewery site is to be built in Blackburn town centre if two bids for government 'Levelling Up' cash succeeds.

The project is a key element in Blackburn with Darwen Council's two-pronged submission for £40m from Whitehall to boost its economy the Lancashire Telegraph can reveal.

The bids being announced today also include £20m for transport improvements including a major upgrade of the Guide Junction Five of the M65 motorway

The Levelling Up Fund submission centrepiece is for £20m towards the new skills and education hub on the current Brown Street car park which will accelerate the first phase of the council's £250m masterplan for Blackburn town centre.

The local authority plans to develop the £60m campus with a leading North-West university and other education and training providers.

It will be at the heart of the council's proposed Blackburn Business Innovation District which it estimates could contribute £1billion of new economic activity to the borough over the next decade.

Both projects link to the authority's ambitious 'Growth Axis' plan which aims to make the borough one of the most important economic centres in the North with the opportunity to create and retain 100,000 jobs.

Blackburn with Darwen Council leader Cllr Phil Riley said: "I’m incredibly proud to be fronting these compelling Levelling-Up Fund bids which could be truly transformational for our borough and indeed the whole region.

“The £40m would immediately unlock a further £50m of investment and would accelerate our plans for the skills campus by a good five years while setting out the infrastructure we need to underpin our ambitious plans as part of the Blackburn Growth Axis.

“We are carving out a strong reputation as a growing borough and we know that this funding would support us to deliver our bold vision – helping us to reach our new economic future much more quickly.”

Blackburn MP Kate Hollern said: "These submissions are bold and ambitious, they enjoy my full support.

"In spite of many challenges Blackburn’s economy continues to grow and it is essential that the council works to ensure that the infrastructure is in place to support more jobs – including the highly skilled employment that in turn attracts more external investment."

The council is also finalising its submission for £6.5m from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund which replaces European Union regional and social fund grants post Brexit which it is hoped will release and extra £13.5m in additional investment.

And the two grants, if successful, would complement £25m of government Town Deal cash already secured for Darwen.

The transport bid includes spending on new walking a cycling routes as well as the M65 Junction Five improvements.

The Blackburn Growth Axis links to the adjacent Samlesbury Enterprise Zone – soon to be home to the new National Cyber Force HQ – making Blackburn an integral part of the government’s new Northern Cyber Corridor running from Lancaster to Manchester.

It also connects new growth opportunities generated from developments by companies including BAE Systems, Blackburn-based EG Group and Assystems.

The Blackburn Town Centre Masterplan will see Morrison's supermarket move on to the Eanam side of the cleared brewery site with an EG Group development on the Penny Street side.

The council will take over the superstore car park releasing its Brown Street counterpart for the skills campus while The Fleece pub will be renovated and reopened.

Councillor Riley said: “Blackburn with Darwen is already starting to close the economic gaps against national benchmarks.

“We are out performing our regional comparators in terms of the economic value of what we generate, the jobs we are creating and the new homes we are providing.

“The Levelling-Up Fund and the UKSPF, alongside the already secured Darwen Town Deal, could bring impressive change, unlocking significant growth opportunities and allowing us to progress with our proposals at real pace.”