AN iconic industrial building on a key town centre gateway site is set to be bought by a local authority so it can be restored and regenerated.

The landmark Imperial Mill in Blackburn's Gorse Street, is currently owned by the Lancashire Saw Company which employs 35 staff on the first floor.

Now the firm is in negotiations to sell the giant 1901 building to Blackburn with Darwen Council.

The authority hopes to develop it for employment and cultural use with the help of government and other grant aid.

The council's executive board will on Thursday next week be asked to approve the purchase for a price expected to run well into six figures.

As part of the terms of the sale, the Lancashire Saw Company would be offered a 15 year lease.

Its directors said the deal was 'the perfect solution' to securing the future of the building.

The building - the only purpose-built spinning mill in Blackburn - is already earmarked as part of The Super Slow Way arts commissioning programme's Pennine Linear Park project to redevelop the Leeds and Liverpool Canal across East Lancashire as a cultural corridor.

Regenerating the imposing building close to Carl Fogarty Way commercial development hub links into the council’s Blackburn Growth Axis, one of six plans in its £1billion vision for the future.

The deal would also include the gatehouse, home to a printing firm, and 3.7 acres of land.

Cllr Quesir Mahmood, Blackburn with Darwen Council's regeneration boss, said: “This is a landmark building – an impressive and characterful former cotton spinning mill built at the turn of the 20th Century when ‘cotton was king.’

“It’s an important part of the borough’s and wider Lancashire’s heritage – reflecting Blackburn’s identity and distinctiveness.

"This is a big project and we’re focused on the long-term future of the site.

“As a council, it’s important that we do all we can to safeguard buildings like these where we can and use them to help create jobs for the future while also looking at improving our place and looking to make the most of cultural and environmental opportunities too.

“The mill has already been identified as playing an important role in Super Slow Way’s impressive proposals for a new Linear Park - one of four proposed ‘cultural hubs’ on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal running through Pennine Lancashire.

“We’ve seen buildings like this successfully restored elsewhere and this is a fantastic opportunity to do something really good.

"We’re a forward-thinking council which has carved out a strong reputation for delivering growth.

“We know that for our towns to be successful, we have to work hard to make the most of opportunities like this – creating new jobs and the potential of an attraction to be enjoyed by residents and visitors too.

“Already we’ve successfully secured grant funding from the government support this potential scheme by looking at what’s feasible at Imperial Mill.

“We would look for further funding opportunities too.”

The directors of Lancashire Saw Company Ltd said: “We are delighted to have come to an interim agreement with the council to purchase and develop Imperial Mill.

“This will safeguard the future of Lancashire Saw Company Ltd and its employees for the foreseeable future and we are excited that the mill will be developed and restored whilst still being in situ.

“We have been manufacturing in Blackburn for 80 years and purchased Imperial Mill in 1982.

“Whilst we have been able to maintain the areas we use to keep them in good condition, we recognise that we are not in a position to safeguard the future of the entire building so the agreement with the council to develop and implement a longer-term restoration and development strategy for site is a perfect solution.”

Imperial Mill was designed by architect Sydney Stott and cost in the region of £120,000.

By 1907 it housed 90,000 Howard and Bullough ring spindles and when spinning ceased in 1980 there were 33,000 spindles and 307 employees.