A DERELICT Blackburn landmark gutted in an arson attack is to be saved, heritage experts have decided.

English Heritage have told Blackburn with Darwen Council that the King's Head Inn in King Street should be restored after the attack left it badly damaged.

A heritage engineer inspected it and wrote to Blackburn with Darwen council stating that the second oldest pub in Blackburn should remain.

An English Heritage spokesman said: "It's an important building historically and architecturally and we have found it not to be structurally unsafe."

The old pub, built by John Ainsworth in 1765, was ravaged by fire on April 20, its roof and rooms in the ground and first--floors were destroyed.

Icehouse Properties, owners of the grade two listed building, had already started demolition and are unhappy at English Heritage's decision.

Doug Chadwick, a director of the company who is also vice-chair of Blackburn Civic Society, said he thought English Heritage's conclusion was the wrong one and said it will cost his company a lot of money.

The company has applied to the council for permission to have it demolished but approval for listed-building demolition will not be given without the consent of English Heritage.

Mr Chadwick warned that the future of the pub could become another long-running saga like the Pavilion buildings in Church Street, Blackburn, which are currently being renovated after years of delays.

A spokesman for English Heritage said: "We have written a letter to the council recommending not to demolish.

"Our engineer did not find it to be structurally unsafe.

"If it was unsafe then the council would have been in their rights to demolish it."

Mr Chadwick said the decision does not end his company's wish to demolish the building.

He said: "We have had an independent engineer look at the building and he has said it's dangerous and would have to come down. We are now exploring all options.

"The decision by English Heritage is going to cost us a lot of money and we are not happy about it."

Mr Chadwick said the decision could also hinder the £1m regeneration works currently taking place on the street.

He said: "The local authority want to regenerate the street and will not particularly want this building standing.

"It is very much like the saga of the Pavilions, it could go on for years and years. But the council were the owners of those buildings. They had the wherewithal to deal with them but not the will.

"We have the will but not the wherewithal."