THE future of a local beauty spot is a step closer to being secured after two years of negotiations.

The privately-owned Wards Reservoir in Belmont, known locally as the Blue Lagoon, has been falling into disrepair since the Belmont Bleachworks closed about three years ago.

It is thought that more than £1million is needed to repair the footpaths, raise the level of water, repair locks and inspect underground streams so that it complies with the Reservoirs Act of 1975.

In 2006, the owner of the former bleach works and Belmont resident Julian Smith formed the Hordern steering group with local businessman Damian Appleby and ward councillor Jean Rigby to explore the possibilities for the reservoir.

After two years of intense talks with local council officers and agencies, the steering group has secured finance to conduct an appraisal for the preservation from Remade, a division of the North West Development Agency.

The study, which will cost about £60,000 is expected to look at three or four options on preserving the area and will not be ready until next spring.

Coun Rigby said the community and users of the reservoir were anxious it should be preserved and not developed commercially.

She said: “The public footpaths around the Blue Lagoon are well used by the local community, despite their recent disrepair.

"The steering group has flagged this up to Blackburn with Darwen Council and we now have officers looking a repair package, which means they will have even greater use in the future.

"I am convinced it will be saved, it is just a matter of how."

Mr Smith added: “It is important that this amenity is preserved for future generations, and that is what we are working towards.

"We have achieved the first step on a very long road.”

Mr Appleby, chair of the steering group said: “The Blue Lagoon is a very important site for the people of Belmont and beyond.

“If we sit back and do nothing, it runs the risk of being developed into a commercial project, and we as a village would lose it.

"It’s thanks to the dedication of everyone involved that we have reached this stage.”

Once the study has been completed, questionnaires will be sent to local residents and users, who will decide on which preservation option is prefered.

The group then expects to apply for grants to complete the work.