Blackburn education campus, Maple, P, planning docs

Blackburn unveils £60m skills hub plans

Phase one of the Business Innovation District would see an education campus delivered on the site of the former market in the town centre.

A £60m scheme to be delivered by Maple Grove, the council’s joint venture partner, is to be partly paid for from a £20m levelling up funding, and figures as a key part of the wider £250m Blackburn Masterplan.

The development would comprise two buildings, Building One and Building Two, four and five storeys in height, developed on the three-acre former brownfield site bordered by Brown Street, Penny Street, St John’s Court, and Ainsworth Street, where Thwaites Brewery once stood.

A full application for Building One and the surrounding public realm, along with an outline application for Building Two, has been lodged with Blackburn with Darwen Council.

As well as these skills and cyber campus buildings, the full application also seeks approval to create an urban park, providing infrastructure, events space and a public realm.

Training and skills provider Training 2000, a subsidiary of the University of Central Lancashire, is in advanced discussions as a potential pre-let occupier.

The development of Building One would see five storeys creating 93,000 sq ft of floorspace with the main entrance accessed from the centre of a revamped public realm. A proposed ground floor café space would be accessed from within this realm.

Building Two would see four storeys creating 48,000 sq ft of floorspace with the main entrance earmarked centrally within the east elevation, allowing two further corners to provide access to café / restaurant or professional commercial uses.

The buildings are designed to appear as a pair and could be the first of up to four buildings proposed within the wider site, according to the plans.

These two will have a façade of mostly transparent and opaque vertical glazing with aluminium frames in keeping with local character.

Nick Hague, project director for Maple Grove Developments, said: “We’ve been working in partnership with Blackburn with Darwen Council for a number of years and are delighted to be supporting them in bringing forward this hugely ambitious and exciting project.

“The two new buildings, along with the fantastic public realm and landscaping, will transform this key gateway site into a world-class education and commercial quarter, supporting the wider regeneration plans for the town centre.

“The buildings will provide flexibility to the occupants, allowing them to adapt over time, responding to the ever changing business and academic world we live in.

“These are indeed exciting times in Blackburn.”

David Taylor, chairman of Training 2000, added: “The Skills and Cyber Campus represents a great opportunity for both UCLAN and T2000 to expand their offer in East Lancashire.

“Although discussions are at an early stage, they represent an exciting opportunity for Training 2000.”

Also part of the business innovation district is St John’s Church with planning permission secured to transform the fire-hit building into an innovation hub with work set to start in 2025.

Linked to the neighbouring The Making Rooms and Blackburn College’s already strong cyber capabilities, it’s part of the council’s bid to generate opportunities from the relocation of the National Cyber HQ to neighbouring Samlesbury.

These projects also link to the Salmesbury Enterprise Zone and the AMRC Innovation Centre, focused on growing the supply chain in the digital and cyber sector in Blackburn with Darwen.

The project team for the skills and cyber campus is being led by BDP, and features Appleyard and Trew, Betts Hydro, WSP, and Bespoke Fire Safety Design.

To view the plans, search for application reference number 10/24/0595 on Blackburn with Darwen Council’s planning portal.

The wider masterplan for Blackburn received a blow earlier this year when supermarket chain Morrisons pulled the plug on a planned relocation to the former Thwaites brewery site, a move which was seen as a catalyst for the regeneration of the town centre.

Plans for 500 homes had been earmarked for the site of the existing store on Railway Road as part of a later phase of the masterplan.

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Really exciting plans from this ambitious council and its partners. Just wish the county council was as ambitious for the rest of Pennine Lancashire

By George

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