Already, the Town Deal Board has helped fund the stunning restoration of Darwen Tower and the impressive Junction 4 Skatepark – which has gone from being one of the smallest in the country to one of the very best.
Finishing touches are also being made to brand new sporting and community facilities at Darwen FC and Darwen Cricket Club too.
The Darwen Town Deal Board secured the full £25m available from Government – worth £100m with contributions from Blackburn with Darwen Council and private investors.
In the town centre, a multi-million pound regeneration scheme is set to include the refurbishment of key heritage buildings, including the Victorian Market Hall and Darwen Library Theatre, as well as potential new town centre living opportunities too.
One of the ideas being looked at is creating a ‘modern market’ with a focus on food, an approach which has had a positive impact in a number of towns across the country.
Now, detailed designs are starting to be developed by Blackburn with Darwen Council, working with the Board, with a view to submitting the necessary planning applications later in the year.
And, the Council is also currently working on a detailed process to secure a development partner to support the delivery of the major town centre projects with an aim for contractors to be on site in early 2024.
Speaking of the vision for the future of the town centre, Wayne Wild, Chair of the Darwen Town Deal Board, said: “In towns similar to Darwen, ‘modern markets’ – focused around food are proving hugely successful and that’s something that we’re looking at here too, but it’s very early days.
“What’s important is that we support the town’s fantastic range of independent retailers while providing opportunities for the future and new businesses wanting to invest here too.
“Darwen’s beautiful Carnegie library and theatre could also be refurbished and perhaps even extended as part of the scheme with opportunities for town centre living too – boosting the vitality of the centre from day through to night.
“We’ve always said that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Darwen and we’re determined to do something that will have a real and lasting impact.
“The town centre is also set to be better connected to the surrounding countryside with new ‘Destination Darwen’ trails, including improved footpaths, linking up to the sprawling moors and on to the Jubilee Tower, which will celebrate its 125th anniversary this year.”
Councillor Phil Riley, Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council and Deputy Chair of the Town Deal Board, said: “We want Blackburn with Darwen to be a prosperous borough where no-one is left behind.
“Driving that is our £1bn vision for the future, including the Darwen Town Deal.
“We are determined to have vibrant town centres and the Town Deal will be a real catalyst for that in Darwen.
“We’ve already seen the difference the Town Deal is making and this is just the start. These are exciting times.”
Once the £25m was secured from Government, business plans then had to be fully developed and approved to be able to access the funding for the projects – with the green light coming late last year.
The Town Deal projects centre around five key themes:
- Town centre regeneration
- Employment growth and business innovation
- Destination Darwen – including trails to the iconic Jubilee Tower
- Connected Darwen with ultrafast fibre broadband
- A brand new East Lancashire Sports Village
The proposals for the town centre will be subject to feasibility testing and consultation with residents and businesses.
Costs will also need to be reviewed due to the impact of inflation, materials and more.