Blackburn College has officially handed over the keys to the Victoria building to contractors as work commences.

The £25m project is one of the largest schemes of its kind in the UK and will see the 135-year-old building become a central feature of Blackburn’s town centre master plan.

The 135-year-old, Grade-II listed building and its distinctive features will externally be restored to their former glory, while the inside will be completely renovated to blend old with new. This includes reinstating some of the original floor plans to create spacious classrooms and meeting areas, and a restoration of the beautiful wood-panelled Headmaster’s Office on the ground floor which will be available for hire.

The entire top floor of the building will be transformed into a live performance, exhibition and creative space for both student and community events.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Principal and Chief Executive, Dr Fazal Dad, said: “The Victoria Building is a much-loved and recognised landmark. It’s weaved into our town’s history, a symbol of Blackburn’s proud industrial heritage. This ambitious project will create a new life for the building as a beacon of our dynamic economic, cultural and inclusive future as the town undergoes its own transformative investment.

“It is with great pleasure that I hand over the keys to the Victoria Building to BAM Construction for work to begin.

“Once complete, the new Victoria Building will not only provide a high-quality and exceptional learning environment for all our students, but it will also be a community asset for all of the borough’s diverse communities.”

A section of Blakey Moor next to the site has been closed and contractors have set up office in the Blakey Moor building opposite.

Regional Director of BAM, John Phillips, said: “The work on the Victoria Building represents an interesting challenge for BAM UK&I. This beautiful, grade II listed building requires intricate and delicate work to ensure the fabric of the College remains undamaged.

“The building will be completely covered in scaffolding and a canopy that allows the work to remain protected from the elements, whilst we restore this eye-catching structure to its former glory. Most importantly, we’ll make possible a superb upgrade that will serve the staff, students and local community for generations to come.”

BAM Construction will be working closely with DfE Technical Advisors, Mott MacDonald. Blackburn-based Darwen Terracotta and Faience, one of the world’s leading terracotta conservators, has also been commissioned to restore many of the elaborate carvings on the building’s façade.

Deputy Leader for Blackburn with Darwen Council and Executive Member for Growth and Development, Councillor Quesir Mahmood, said: “The restoration of the iconic Victoria Building is part of our wider development of the Blackburn Cultural Quarter.

“The handing over of the keys is an important milestone and adds to the real sense of momentum across that whole area, with works to the Blakey Moor building also progressing well.

“Preserving our heritage buildings is important to the Council and we welcome this significant investment by the Department for Education and Blackburn College – we can’t wait to see the results.

“As a Council. we’ll continue to work closely with the College and contractors, BAM to support this important project in any way we can.”

Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education Robert Halfon said: “I am delighted to see Blackburn College is benefiting from the significant investments we have given to colleges to transform their estates across the country. I want to build a skills nation and our brilliant colleges are at the forefront of that, providing the best education for students no matter where they live.

“Local people will have access to high-quality facilities and learning environments, to gain the skills they need to climb the ladder of opportunity into further study and work, whilst supporting efforts to grow the economy.”