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Delayed Darwen Tower repairs finally under way

WORK has finally started on the restoration of Darwen Tower after a two-month delay to protect wildlife on surrounding moors.

The renovation was originally scheduled for April but was put back because of the discovery of nesting birds near the 123-year-old Grade II listed building and to get permission from Natural England.

The approval was needed as the octagonal structure is in a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of its local animals and plants.

Now Natural England have approved the works and an ornithologist agreed a plan for them to proceed without disturbing the nesting birds.

The news has been welcomed by Darwen councillors Dave Smith and Paul Browne, and Harold Heys – the final chairman of the Friends of Darwen Tower.

They are expected to be completed by the original scheduled date of September,

The £305,000 project includes repairs to the rainwater disposal system, to weather damage and the deck of the upper observation level; replacement polycarbonate windows; and the installation of information boards.

It includes repairs to Belgrave Road, the Tower’s main access track.

Blackburn with Darwen Council’s director of place Martin Eden said: “There have been some delays in starting the works, mainly because tower is located in SSSI area and we needed Natural England to give assent.

“Added to this, surprisingly there are nesting birds relatively close to the tower, despite walkers and dogs off the lead, so we had to engage the services of an ornithologist to advise on setting up the site compound and transporting materials.

“Work has commenced and will carry on to completion around September.”

Darwen West’s Labour Cllr Smith said: “Whilst the delay is understandable, I am really pleased that the repair works to our iconic tower are now finally under way. It’ll be great to see the finished result in September.”

Mr Heys said: “The council seem to be saying that the SSSI designation and the need for permission from Natural England have come as a surprise.

“They would have known this a couple of years ago. Still, better late than never.”

Darwen east Liberal Democrat Cllr Browne said: “I accept and understand the delay caused by protecting birds and the local ecology.

“I am pleased that despite the delay the work should be completed on schedule in September.”

The work is being paid for by £225,000 from the Darwen Town Deal, £70,000 from local fundraising led by Darwen Rotary and £10,000 contribution from Blackburn with Darwen Council.