BLACKBURN’S new Cathedral Quarter development will include a Covent Garden-style ‘festival square’, the Lancashire Telegraph can reveal.
As a comprehensive set of new images of how the £33million development will look is revealed, bosses behind the scheme have said the ‘piazza’ in the new public gardens has been added as an area to host fun events.
These include a Christmas market and ice-rink, outdoor theatre, classical and pop concerts, circus performances and fun-fairs.
The festival square proposal adds sparkle to the office, hotel, restaurant and church buildings complex to transform the town’s heart with a mix of old and new.
The new images paint the first detailed picture of the 21st-century town centre about to rise from the building sites around the cathedral and old market.
To accompany the computer-generated preview of the complex, Canon Andrew Hindley and borough regeneration boss Coun Maureen Bateson announced the inclusion of the new square, partly modeled on London’s Covent Garden.
Canon Hindley promised it would provide a place for enjoyment while Blackburn MP Jack Straw praised the ‘element of fun and sparkle’ it would bring to the development. Traders warmly endorsed the extra attraction.
With the foundations near completion, later this month actual construction begins on the Quarter and its centrepiece, the first Clergy Court and Cloister Garden for almost 600 years in England, which will provide an oasis of peace in the midst of a new business and tourist quarter.
With the cathedral placed on a par with its more famous medieval counterparts, it will be surrounded by two office blocks and Blackburn’s first full-scale town centre hotel for generations, complete with a 3,500 square foot restaurant on the ground floor.
They will be served by a new £5million bus station on the old market site and refurbished rail gateway with a new public transport interchange outside the train hub linking the two.
Hopes are high a flagship retailer will take the top half of the old market site, creating a high-quality shopping complex leading down to The Mall.
Piling and foundation work for the first three new buildings are almost complete.
Early next month the steel skeleton of the 60-bed Premier Inn, Clergy Court and initial 32,000 square foot office block with coffee bar/bistro and retail unit suitable for a newsagents or delicatessen will visibly rise from the cleared site.
Detailed brochures are about go to several interested parties.
Work on a new taxi rank by the rail station, paving its frontage and Railway Road with granite flags, widening the pavements and rerouting the highway for the interchange is scheduled to finish by the end of September.
By then, the £635,000 upgrade of the railway station, announced today by Northern Rail, will be under way with a Christmas completion date ready for the bus station in Ainsworth Street to open early next year.
The two to four-storey Clergy Court, projecting 30 metres from the cathedral to Dandy Walk, will provide offices, a library, apartments, a public ‘refectory’ restaurant and the first Cloister Garden at an English cathedral since 1541.
Coun Bateson said: “This is part of a strategy to bring new life, entertainment and enjoyment to the town centre. It will attract visitors, create jobs and bring benefits to existing shops and businesses while encouraging news ones to come here.”
Canon Hindley said: “We are very excited that this development, years in the making, will be starting to rise from the building site. There will be a Covent Garden-style ‘piazza’ – a festival square for people to come and enjoy themselves.
“The Clergy Court and Cloister Garden will be a fragrant oasis of peace with flowers, shrubs and trees not just for priests but the public looking for a place of tranquillity and reflection.”
Blackburn MP Jack Straw said: “It is great news for the town that the Cathedral Quarter is going to rise before residents’ eyes. The new festival square will provide an element of fun and sparkle to the development to reward the people of Blackburn for the disruption caused by the building work.”
Mayor of Blackburn with Darwen Alan Cottam said: “It is very exciting. The Cathedral Quarter and other major developments I was involved in as coalition regeneration boss from 2008 and 2010 will actually start going up while I am the borough’s first citizen.”
Jewellery store boss Phil Ainsworth said the new development would make Blackburn a town be reckoned with in Lancashire.’ And chamber of trade president Tony Duckworth said it would make the town ‘a destination’.