DARWEN'S skyline has changed forever as engineers began the painstaking demolition of Belgrave Mill and its chimney.

Contractors from Darwen-based Frank Barnes have spent the past two days removing the 200ft high chimney which has towered over the town for several decades.

Once the chimney is removed, the rest of the former Crown Wallcoverings factory, which dates back to 1841, will be demolished.

The site is expected to be cleared by September to make way for a £30million housing development.

The metal chimney, which weighed 25 tonnes and had a two-metre diameter, was taken down in five separate sections.

Steve Barnes, managing director of Frank Barnes Ltd, in Cross Street, added: "We have had an 80-tonne crane and a 150-tonne crane to dismantle the chimney and we supervised the whole process.

"It was a complicated and delicate lift because there was not a great deal of space and because of the nature of the terrain, with it being on a steep slope, it made it more difficult.

"The larger crane did the lifting of the sections while the smaller crane lifted the basket with men in it. They had to remove the bolts, lift the top section off and then lay it down on the ground. It was a tricky operation because it has to be done in a safe and proper manner."

The process began with a worker climbing up the 190 rungs of the nine ladders attached to the side of the chimney and slowly removing them one by one.

Then bolts holding each section of the chimney together were removed before each section was lifted away, including the two smaller metal cylinders within the outer case.

The £30million plan will include flats, detached homes and townhouses.