Blackburn with Darwen Council has declared its intention to release its former Blackburn Markets site to a developer for a retail-led, mixed-use scheme.
Having been approached by a developer about taking the site on, the council is to issue an informal tender in the coming weeks, a process that it hopes will lead to the appointment of a preferred developer for the 3.9-acre site.
The market and the Exchange office building were demolished in 2013, since when the site has been used by the council as surface parking – with 250 spaces, this nets around £100,000 a year for the council.
The site is one of six plots around Blackburn town centre earmarked in the council’s town centre supplementary planning document as critical to the town’s future, with a focus on improving and broadening the town’s retail offer as key for this area in particular.
A report to council in August recommended approval for the tender process to begin, with the member for regeneration recording that a report will be put to the executive board following the process.
The Markets site is prominent in the north eastern part of the town centre, with links to the Cathedral Quarter and the main shopping centre, The Mall. The council commissioned Capita to carry out a feasibility study which concluded that “planning and infrastructure requirements do not present any insurmountable barriers to the land being made available for development”.
The other five areas marked out in the town centre SPD are the former Thwaites brewery site, east of the Markets site; Cathedral Quarter; Northgate and surrounds; Wainwright Way and surrounds; and Fabric Borders around Victoria Square and Barbara Castle Way north of the town centre.
While the SPD noted that the council may consider a project combining the markets site and the Thwaites site, it notes that the Markets site is within the Primary Shopping Area boundaries, and the Thwaites site is not. Keeping its options open, the council said in the SPD that preferred uses or the Markets site could include retail, residential, offices, assembly & leisure, restaurants & cafes; and pubs and bars.