WORK is about to start on a once-in-a-generation scheme which will change thousands of young lives for years to come in Blackburn.

The £5million Blackburn Youth Zone will see an anticipated 3,000 youngsters attending every week and is modelled on the legendary Bolton Lads and Girls Club.

Although a first class sports facility, the club’s underlying purpose is to provide a big helping hand to those who need one.

Whether it is getting them on the straight and narrow, helping to solve problems at home, or searching for work, the club's aim is to bring something completely different to the town.

Builders are to move onto the site in Jubilee Street, Blackburn town centre, within days to begin preparatory work. Construction is expected to be complete within a year.

Chairman of the project is Andrew Graham, boss of wallpaper giants Graham and Brown.

He said: "It will be an iconic building which we want to be a part of the DNA of the town.

"There are very few places for young people to congregate after school in a safe and supervised way.

"We want this to be a real hub for people who are interested in sport or art or just catching up with friends and getting away from home for a little while.

"It will be something that we and the town can be proud of with a reputation for being safe and welcoming whilst still having the wow factor.

"We have now got a fantastic opportunity to bring something to the town that can make a difference to a whole generation.

"It is going to be absolutely life changing."

Mr Graham and the Youth Zone board are now in the process of securing backing from 20 founder patrons, who will help meet the £1million operating costs per year.

The former Jubilee House and council offices complex off Jubilee Street will be transformed into a futuristic youth club complete with bright orange cladding and football pitch on the roof.

Blackburn Youth Zone will be open every day of the year when it is completed in 12 months time.

Subject to planning permission, other facilities will include a sports hall, boxing gym, fitness centre, arts and craft zone, dance studio, recreation area and accommodation for advice and support services.

At a cost of just 50p per night there will be 25 activities and enterprise programmes run for youngsters aged from eight to 21.

The development forms part of the wider regeneration of the Cathedral Quarter.

The funding for the building has been secured but private sector patrons are now being sought to keep it going for an initial three years. Work on site is expected to start within three weeks and it could open in September 2011.

Mr Graham said that Blackburn had been chosen as one of the first projects because of the levels of deprivation in the town, as well as having one of the country's largest populations of young people, in percentage terms.

He said: "It will give the kids of this town a future and some inspiration.

"There are 7,500 children who live within one mile of Blackburn town centre, but few affordable facilities for them.

The scheme is also seen as a unifying force to improve community cohesion in the town.

Mr Graham said: "This will be a facility for every child in the town and that will mean bringing together young people from all backgrounds, a lot of whom would probably not meet under any other circumstances.

"It can be a great tool for building relationships across the town."

Along with support from Blackburn with Darwen Council the support of several companies has already been secured more than a year before it will be opened.

The Youth Zone is seeking volunteers, patrons, ambassadors, supporters and contributors.

To express an interest in supporting Blackburn Youth Zone or for more information call 01254 362128 or email