BLACKBURN'S historic Victorian hospital is to be pulled down by developers - just a year after council bosses said they wanted it to remain.

The buildings, dating back to 1865 and which formed part of the original Blackburn Royal Infirmary, will be bulldozed by developers Barratt Homes as part of a scheme to transform the site.

Only the former War Memorial building which overlooks the town and commemorates those who lost their lives in the 1914-1918 conflict, looks set to be retained.

The decision has angered local residents and disappointed local historians and a ward councillor.

And Blackburn with Darwen Council has urged the developer to do all it can to preserve the heritage of the hospital.

The Infirmary site has been redundant since the opening of Blackburn's new £113million super hospital at Queen's Park last summer.

When the sale of the land by health bosses went through last year, the council, which had to approve the change of use of the land for housing, said it expected the Victorian buildings to remain, most likely as apartments.

But now it has been confirmed that they will be bulldozed after the developers said they had become badly damaged by adaptations and changes to the site over the years.

Bernard Hammond, of Martins Drive, Feniscowles, said: "Is another travesty about to happen in what is left of our town?

"Who has given these people the right to decide this? The original Blackburn Royal Infirmary was paid for by subscription from the people of Blackburn, businessmen and ordinary folk.

"In my view the building belongs to the town."

Coun Maureen Bateson, who represents the Ewood ward, said: "We are disappointed that there are not more of the original buildings retained.

"But I understand the problems they will have had as a lot of the older buildings had been extended and added to down the years and were difficult to preserve."

But overall Coun Bateson said the blueprints represented "very exciting times" for the Infirmary area.

Albert Branscombe, chairman of Blackburn Local History Society, added: "A lot of us will feel a pang of regret that something that has been here for 150 years, and was built with public money, is going to disappear.

"We accept the fact that a lot of buildings cannot be preserved and a hospital is perhaps not really suitable for conversion.

"People have had a lot of success with converting churches but converting hospitals, with massive long corridors and high ceilings and walls, is a completely different thing."

Public meetings have already been held with residents at the Ivy Community Centre. The scheme is due to be considered by council planners in October and be completed within three years.

Barratt Homes will create 188 one, two, three and four bedroom homes on infirmary land stretching back to Longshaw Lane.

The landmark Edwardian War memorial building, overlooking Bolton Road, will be converted into 53 apartments.

The former hospital car park at the corner of Sunny Bank Road and Pritchard Street will be home to 12 apartments and associated car parking.

A Blackburn with Darwen council spokesman said: "The applicant contends that these buildings have been badly damaged by the many adaptations, demolitions and changes that have taken place over the history of the hospital.

"An expert assessment has been submitted to show that they cannot be brought back into use.

"Much of the ground and first floors of these buildings have been broken through to make new corridors etc.

"Although the buildings are not listed and not in a conservation area, the hospital trust and council planners have urged the developer to do all they can to preserve the heritage of the BRI."

A Barratts Homes spokesman said: "The War Memorial building will be retained and converted but no other buildings on the site will be retained."