A historic Blackburn pub building is to be knocked down to make way for the regeneration of the town centre.

The Jacobean-style Victorian premises of The Fleece Inn, in Penny Street, are to be demolished following a fire in 2022.

Blackburn with Darwen Council had originally bought the building in 2021 from Thwaites Brewery with a view to refurbishing and reopening it.

But now borough growth boss Cllr Quesir Mahmood has revealed this would be too expensive, following extensive internal damage caused by a suspected arson attack in February 2022.

He outlines the demolition proposal in a report to senior council colleagues about assembling the sites needed to pave the way for work to the £250 million-plus Blackburn Town Centre Masterplan to become reality.

It also authorises the use of the Penny Street and Starkie Street car parks as development land for the 10-year-scheme, which aims to create 1,000 jobs.

Cllr Mahmood's Conservative counterpart Cllr Paul Marrow called on him to reconsider this decision.

The Blackburn Town Centre Masterplan unveiled in December 2021 included relocating the Morrisons supermarket to the cleared former Thwaites brewery site.

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

Lancashire Telegraph: The pub was ravaged by fire in 2022The pub was ravaged by fire in 2022

The blueprint foresaw the Morrisons multi-storey car park being upgraded for public use, while Blackburn’s EG Group was earmarked to 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.

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

The cleared seven-acre Thwaites Star Brewery site its currently being used by Leyland Daf to store trucks while Morrisons' planning application for a new store there is considered by the council.

Cllr Marrow said: "It is very sad to see The Fleece earmarked for demolition.

"The council had said it was going to keep it as part of its masterplan for the area.

"No they have decided no longer. I think they should reconsider this decision.

"There is now going to be nowhere for people from the new houses proposed for the Morrisons site to go and relax."

Cllr Mahmood's report says: "The former Fleece Inn property was acquired by the Council in 2021 from Thwaites for the purpose of site assembly and future development.

"Acquisition of the property complemented the adjacent council investment in acquiring the former Thwaites brewery site in joint venture with Maple Grove Developments.

"Following a fire at the property, caused by arson, a detailed assessment was undertaken to assess the damage caused and to reassess the potential for refurbishment for commercial uses, including a bar and food outlet.

"However, given the fire damage together with higher than anticipated interest rates and construction costs, refurbishment of the property is assessed as unviable by council officers and therefore demolition is recommended.

"The demolition will enable the council to temporarily use the cleared site for additional car parking whilst the longer-term plans for redevelopment are established.

"To support the wider regeneration plans for the former Thwaites site, the Starkie Street car park will close with permit holders relocated to alternative town centre car parks, including the extended Penny Street site.

"Following the closure of Starkie Street car park, the site will be cleared and remediated to prepare the site for future development."

A Blackburn with Darwen Council spokesperson added: "The fire happened in February 2022. At the time, the police treated it as suspected arson.

"Nobody has ever been arrested. The fire caused extensive internal damage to the property."