SUPERMARKET giant Morrisons has pulled out of building a new store in Blackburn, blowing a huge hole in the council's £250million masterplan for the town centre.

The Yorkshire-based retail chain is to remain in its existing premises in Railway Road.

Its originally-proposed move to a new location on the cleared 30,000 square foot site of the former Thwaites Brewery off Barbara Castle Way was a key component of Blackburn with Darwen Council's £250m Blackburn Town Centre Masterplan unveiled in December 2021.

Now the local authority's growth bosses will have to see if they can salvage the 10-year long scheme including looking for another 'anchor' retail tenant for the site.

Conservative group regeneration spokesman Cllr Paul Marrow said: "This blows that masterplan apart."

Blackburn with Darwen Council leader Cllr Phil Riley said: "It is a blow to the masterplan but not a terminal one."

Approached by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, a spokeswoman for Morrisons said: "Due to rising construction costs the new store plans are no longer viable so we will be remaining in our current store in Blackburn."

The shock news comes despite Morrisons submitting a planning application for the new store in January.

It is understood to be part of the debt-laden supermarket chain abandoning several new store projects across Britain due to a challenging retail climate and rising inflation in construction costs.

The town centre masterplan is being led by the council in partnership with the Eric Wright Group's Maple Grove Developments.

Under it, the existing Morrisons supermarket was to be demolished with the site earmarked for 500 new homes alongside a full refurbishment of the existing store's multi-storey car park.

In the meantime, the cleared space would have become a temporary green, public space.

The masterplan hopes to deliver a £60m Skills and Education campus with a Cyber Zone; low carbon town centre accommodation next to retail, local services and flexible workspaces and improved public realm and increased cycle/pedestrian routes.

Proposals for a second office block in Cathedral Square have been dropped from the original blueprint while Marks and Spencer revealed in November that it was to leave its King William Street premises for a new state-of-the-art location on the Frontier Park retail park on the outskirts of Blackburn being built by the Issa brothers.

Cllr Marrow said: "This is a shame for the town centre.

"The council is now going to have to reassess its plans for the whole of the Brown Street and Thwaites site area.

"The new Morrisons store was the keystone of its Blackburn town centre masterplan.

"This blows that masterplan apart."

Cllr Riley said: "This is obviously disappointing.

"We have been working on this particular project for some years.

"It is a blow to the masterplan but not a terminal one. We now need to rejig it."

A spokeswoman for Blackburn with Darwen Council said: “We are of course disappointed at the news that Morrisons won’t be progressing their planned new store in Blackburn town centre.

“The planning application submitted by Maple Grove will now be withdrawn with Morrisons committing to updating their existing store.

“We are proud to be an incredibly ambitious council working on important schemes for both of our town centres, but this is against a difficult national backdrop.

“In light of Morrisons' decision, we will of course review our plans for that part of the former Thwaites site and look at ways to maximise its potential for the future.

“The new Morrisons store was just one element of our £250m Blackburn Town Centre Masterplan - the largest regeneration scheme of its type in the whole region.

“We have secured £20m of Levelling Up funding for a Skills and Education Campus of regional significance with a Cyber Zone there – leveraging opportunities from the location of the National Cyber Force HQ at neighbouring Samlesbury.

"A planning application for that will be submitted in the coming months.

“Our plans to re-develop the former St John’s Church and Making Rooms - as part of Blackburn’s neighbouring Tech Innovation Quarter - are also well on track.

“We are committed to doing the very best for our towns, residents and businesses as part of our £1bn vision for the future and won’t be deterred.”

A spokesman for Maple Grove Developments, said: “We have been in discussions with Morrisons since 2021 and it is of course disappointing that they have taken the decision not to proceed.

"That said, we are very confident about the site’s future, particularly with the skills and education campus planned on the other side of Penny Street.

"Working closely with our partner, Blackburn with Darwen Council, we are now assessing other development options for the former brewery site.”

The now abandoned Morrisons planning application said the current store had become outdated in terms of layout.