First-look at how Blackburn’s historic fire-hit church could be transformed

Published Friday 15 September 2023 at 9:50

New images show how Blackburn’s St John’s church could be transformed into an impressive new Innovation Hub.

The artist impressions have been shared for the first time as part of a new planning application for the Grade II listed building, which was extensively damaged by a devastating fire in 2019.

The application sets out detailed plans to develop the landmark building into a high quality, sustainable work space – providing offices, meeting rooms and more as part of a new Tech Innovation Quarter.

The impressive 9,000sqft of new office space will be spread over four floors – with a proposed new roof space – and is part of Blackburn with Darwen Council’s ambitious £250m Blackburn Town Centre Masterplan, including a new Business Innovation District.

Leader of the Council, Councillor Phil Riley, said:

Submitting this new planning application is an important next step in securing the future of St John’s Church.

The historic building, with its bell tower, has long been a prominent building on the Blackburn town centre skyline and its part of the character of our town.

We’ve been working hard with award-winning architects, OMI on these new plans – ensuring that St John’s history can be celebrated with a strong, new future – a future that builds on the borough’s strong reputation for entrepreneurism and enviable record for successful business start-ups.

Manchester-based OMI Architects has won 12 national and regional RIBA awards and is well known for a broad range of work including museums, galleries and churches.

OMI’s work includes complex heritage schemes similar to St John’s involving some of the region’s most important Grade I and Grade II listed buildings.

St John’s Church, which sits within the Richmond Terrace and St John’s Conservation Area, dates back to 1788 and was used as a place of worship up until 1975 when it closed and was later transferred to Council ownership.

The development is ear-marked to be part of the first phase of the Blackburn Town Centre Masterplan – part of the Council’s £1bn vision for the future – with the new CGIs showing how that whole area could be transformed.

The new office space, within the Tech Innovation Quarter, which also links to the neighbouring Making Rooms, boasts 20 new office units and pods together with co-working space and meeting rooms.

St John’s CGI – re-sized 0809

Also due to come forward as part of the first set of works is a skills and education campus of national significance – backed by £20m of new Levelling Up funding from Government.

The wider plans for the masterplan include:

  • The potential to relocate Morrisons to a new store on the former Thwaites brewery site with the opportunity to retain and upgrade the existing car park for public use;
  • New, low carbon town centre living in close proximity to services, retail, workspace and major public transport connections;
  • Improved public open spaces and increased cycle and pedestrian routes with new connectivity to our local canal infrastructure

Councillor Riley added:

As a Council, we’re working hard to strengthen the future of our town centres.

The £250m Blackburn Town Centre Masterplan is believed to be the largest town centre regeneration scheme of its type in the whole region and we have our new Cultural Quarter in full development too with work just starting on the iconic Victoria Building.

In Darwen, the town centre will benefit from once-in-a-lifetime investment through the Town Deal, which will support the refurbishment of key heritage buildings, including the Market Hall and Darwen Library Theatre.

This is all part of our bold, £1bn vision for the future of Blackburn with Darwen and our mission to create a more prosperous borough where no-one is left behind.

The planning application for St John’s Church can be viewed by clicking here.

If agreed, the development work will be put out to tender with a view to the contractors being on site as Autumn 2024.

You can read more about the skills and education campus and Blackburn with Darwen Council becoming a new Government Levelling-Up Partner by clicking here.

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