PEREGRINE falcons will soon be able to return to their chimney-top perch high above Darwen.

Preparations for extensive repair work at the landmark India Mill chimney have been taking place for more than a year. Contractors are on site for the final phase, which will include demolishing and then rebuilding the top 10ft of the 303ft grade II listed building.

Peregrines have traditionally nested at the site every year, becom- ing a popular attraction for bird lovers.

Steeplejacks put up special nets around the upper ledges to keep them away and allow the work to start.

Fledglings would not have been leaving until August, delaying the hazardous work until winter.

The chimney is owned by Brookhouse Holdings plc.

John Fryer, Brookhouse Properties manager, said: "All the work is being carried out with guidance from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

"The nets will be removed as soon as remedial work is complete and then trays filled with grit will be put up to encourage the falcons back.

"It has been a long process. The steeplejacks had to make their reports then the work went out to tender. Then the architects were called in.

"The contractors are on site now, working on ground level, and there will soon be evidence of work going on up there."