Project at centre of Blackburn's £250m masterplan gets green light

By Tim Aldred

20 Nov 2023

Blackburn St Johns Masterplan

Plans to transform Blackburn's St John's church - which was damaged by fire in 2019 - into an innovation hub have been granted approval.

The scheme forms a cornerstone of the council’s ambitious £250m Blackburn Town Centre Masterplan, linking with new cyber opportunities at neighbouring Samlesbury, with the establishment of the new national centre there.

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

Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council’s Planning and Highways Committee agreed to delegate powers to authorise a planning application for the Grade II listed building.

The application set out detailed plans to invest in the landmark building to create a high quality, sustainable work space, providing offices, meeting rooms and more as part of the town’s new Tech Innovation Quarter.

The 9,000 sq ft of new office space will be spread over four floors, with the proposed new fourth level in the roof space.

Manchester-based OMI Architects has won 12 national and regional RIBA awards in recent years and is behind a broad range of innovative projects on museums, galleries and churches.

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

Coun Phil Riley, leader of the council, said: "We’ve worked hard with award-winning architects OMI and key stakeholders on these plans to resurrect St John’s Church and sensitively reinstate much of its former glory.

“We want to ensure that its long history can be celebrated with a strong, new future – a future that builds on the borough’s enviable reputation for entrepreneurism and impressive record for successful business start-ups and links to the new cyber opportunities here in Lancashire."

He added: "Dating back to 1789, the former church, 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.

“These impressive plans will allow for a complete refurbishment – converting the building into a flexible workspace with new offices, meeting rooms and lettable desks.

“There’ll also be a new, glass fourth floor in the roof space offering views of the area.”

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