The starting gun has been fired on the multi-million-pound journey to redevelop Blackburn's 'magnificent' Imperial Mill as the jewel in the town's heritage crown.

Councillors on Thursday night approved the first of a series of proposals aimed at restoring the giant heritage-listed 1901 building in Gorse Street to its former glory.

Blackburn with Darwen Council growth boss Cllr Quesir Mahmood told the borough's planning committee: "This is the start of the renovation of Imperial Mill.

"It is an iconic and historic mill - a magnificent building.

"There is a job to be done here.

"It will be a long journey but we can make it the jewel in our crown."

The committee meeting approved the demolition of structurally unsafe elements at the imposing 123-year-old canalside building including the Boiler House, Engine Room Extension, Masonry Annex and Steel Structure.

The approval was granted despite Cllr Mahmood's Conservative counterpart Cllr Paul Marrow expressing concern about the structural soundness of the rest of the building in case the project became 'a noose around the council's neck'.

Borough planning manager Gavin Prescott said the proposal was the first in a series of applications to regenerate the building with another for the loading bay expected soon.

Blackburn with Darwen Council bought the mill in February last year with the intention of restoring and repurposing it as a job-creating hub for creative industries and cultural activities.

It has already secured £1million of Levelling Up cash from Whitehall for the project and will be seeking to finance much of the rest of the multi-million-pound cost from heritage, lottery and government grants.

Mr Prescott's report to Thursday's meeting said: "Imperial Mill was formally opened in 1901 as a cotton mill, with spinning in the mill ceasing in 1980.

"The Boiler House which is positioned to the north of the Engine Room raised the steam required to power the engine, utilising water from the canal.

"There is also a small single-storey extension to the Engine Room. The Masonry Annex is positioned on the opposite side of the Engine Room to the Boiler House along the south side of the main building.

"The external steel structure is alongside the south elevation of the main building, which appears to have been used for external storage.

"As detailed above, the proposal solely consists of the demolition of the boiler house, engine room extension, masonry annex and steel structure to the Grade II listed Imperial Mill building which are in relation to a programme of works regarding the demolition of structurally unsafe elements of Imperial Mil. All of the structures are currently vacant.

"The structures will be removed from the site.

"It is considered that the proposed demolition of the buildings is necessary due to their poor condition.

"The buildings are now considered to be dangerous and unstable, and there is ongoing evidence of trespass and vandalism."

Cllr Marrow said: "I have concerns about the demolition of the boiler house. It is an integral part of this building.

"We are now finding out this building is not as structurally sound as we thought it was.

"I don't want see any more reports about its poor state.

"I don't was this to be a noose around the council's neck."

Ewood's Cllr Jim Casey said: "I think we should be proud of this. It is a magnificent building.

"Without intervention the building will fall down. It is part of our Lancashire history."

Committee chairman Cllr Dave Smith said the restoration of Darwen's similarly magnificent India Mill showed what could be done with historic buildings.

Cllr Mahmood said after the meeting: "This is a multi-million pound project. We have already got £1m from the government and will be looking to heritage-linked grants for the rest."