Council bosses have expressed their disappointment at having to demolish a historic Blackburn pub building, as they defended their U-turn over its future.

The Fleece Inn in Penny Street is to be knocked down following fire damage in an arson attack in February 2022.

On Thursday night, local history enthusiast Chris Walton went to Blackburn with Darwen Council's ruling executive board to quiz growth boss Cllr Quesir Mahmood about the decision revealed on February 2.

He told the meeting: "The Fleece Inn is a longstanding part of Blackburn’s heritage, with reports of its existing on Penny Street back in 1805, and then rebuilt in 1920 as it currently stands.

"It served the community as a hotel, meeting place, and community pub and continued to do so until it’s closure in 2012.

"In 2021, the council bought the former Thwaites site, including the Fleece Inn, as part of the regeneration plans for the town centre.

Lancashire Telegraph: The Fleece Inn has been shut since 2012The Fleece Inn has been shut since 2012

"Cllr Phil Riley then said: 'This plan demonstrates the council’s strong commitment to brownfield regeneration and will also help us to preserve the historic Fleece pub'.

"It is most disappointing that a building over 100 years old is to be demolished leading to further loss of the town's cultural heritage."

He posed three questions to Cllr Mahmood about the decision. They were:

  • Will you make the report recommending demolition of the Fleece Inn, along with supporting evidence of building and damage assessments, and costings for refurbishment, public?
  • Was the building insured for fire? If so, has a claim been made and what has happened to the money? If it was not insured, why not?
  • Have any efforts been made to secure funding to restore the building? Or have any commercial partners been approached or shown interest in restoring the building, or in clearing the land for other uses?

In response, Cllr Mahmood said: "The report can be found as an executive member decision.

"A comprehensive fire inspection and an independent cost plan report have been undertaken. The cost of refurbishment is estimated as £1.2 million.

"The building was insured for fire. A claim is progressing, however, a settlement has not been concluded.

"Unfortunately, there are no external funding opportunities, as the building is neither listed or in a conservation area.

"It was our intention to retain and restore The Fleece. However things have changed. This is not where we wanted to be."

Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, Cllr Phil Riley, added: "We share your disappointment."

Mr Walton, who resides in the Infirmary ward of the town, said after the meeting: "It was a reasonable answer."