Blackburn’s first-ever electric power station is set to be transformed after Blackburn and Darwen Youth Zone successfully secured almost £3m of new Government funding.

The impressive project is one of four that will receive a cash injection through the Youth Investment Fund, with a total of £8m being announced for the schemes across the borough.

The striking heritage building – aptly known as the Fusebox and dating back to the 1800s – is linked to Blackburn Youth Zone, in Jubilee Street, and will be developed into a new Employment Skills Hub – supporting young people into work and helping them fulfil their potential.

The plans for the currently undeveloped and unused building include:

  • A new training academy – offering training facilities for the delivery of recognised and vocational qualifications
  • A Maker Zone – a space housing dedicated science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) equipment with a bespoke accredited curriculum
  • Sector-based Youth Club – providing bespoke equipment for young people to develop transferable skills in preparation for ‘Jobs of the Future’
  • Open events space – the perfect setting for youngsters to showcase their talents

Plus, there’ll be social spaces, a new fitness suite and areas where the youngsters can receive one-to-one support.

Outside, a new hi-tech, multi-use games area will also be created which is skate and BMX-friendly in a bid to divert youngsters away from the town centre.

Celebrating the news, Hannah Allen, Chief Executive of Blackburn with Darwen Youth Zone, said:

“At Blackburn with Darwen Youth Zone we’re here to make a real difference to young people’s lives – helping them fulfil their aspirations.

“This new funding will allow us to transform the Fusebox – initially opened in 1818 as Blackburn’s first electricity power station – into a new, state-of-the-art Employment Skills Hub.

“In this dedicated space, we can empower young people and industry to come together to address identified skills gaps, supporting young people to acquire new skills to meet demand and access a range of employment opportunities to improve the economic wellbeing of the young people of Blackburn with Darwen.

“The Fuse Box is an important heritage project for the town too and we are excited to hear and re-tell the stories of the past and form new stories – giving young people the space and opportunity to find their spark.”

Blackburn and Darwen Youth Zone currently has more than 4,000 members and offers over 60 hours of provision, seven days per week across the borough with that set to be further boosted as part of the investment.

Impressively, half of the charities’ running costs each year are financed by local businesses, known as patrons.

The Blackburn and Darwen Patron Network believes in civic responsibility – helping Blackburn and Darwen Youth Zone open its doors while also volunteering their time and helping young people gain employment.

Wayne Wild, Blackburn and Darwen Youth Zone Trustee and Chair of the Darwen Town Deal, said:

“This new funding will allow us to further develop Youth Zone’s strong employability offer – ensuring youngsters are work-ready with the skills they need.

“The unwavering support of our patrons and our strong links with local businesses in the area has helped make it a success and I’d like to thank them for the part they continue to play and the difference they’re helping make every single day. I look forward to seeing that go from strength-to-strength.

“I’ve also seen first-hand just how rigorous the process is to successfully secure investment like this from Government and I’d like to congratulate everyone involved in being allocated the £8m for the borough. This will help create a fantastic legacy for our young people.”

The other three Youth Investment Fund projects in the borough are:

Darwen Youth Centre – building on the success of Youth Zone Darwen, the Knott Street facility will double in size as part of plans to add an extra level on to the existing building. The redevelopment will boast a new wellbeing area, creative workshop space, recording and DJ studio, gaming zone and multi-use spaces and the outdoor sports facilities will be upgraded too.

Audley and Queen’s Park Children’s Centre – part of Blackburn with Darwen Council’s brand new Family Hubs, the existing facilities will be transformed for children and young people living in the area. It’ll then be open seven days a week for them to enjoy with a specialist mental health offer, employability and rehabilitation support too.

Shadsworth Hub – the new youth hub – opposite the local park – will be open to all youngsters in the area, offering impressive new indoor and outdoor spaces for them to enjoy.

Welcoming the news, Councillor Phil Riley, Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said:

“This is a brilliant outcome for our youngsters in the borough and comes on the back of an incredible amount of hard work by the Council and our partners.

“This funding will see our youth facilities transformed – supporting our mission to ensure every child and young person has opportunities to fulfil their potential.

“It also adds to the £40m the Council has already successfully secured through the Levelling-Up Fund in the last few months.

“This paves the way for a new skills and education campus of national significance in Blackburn town centre – again benefitting our young people – and improvements to J5 of the M65 and transport links in that area to help support our £1bn vision for the future.”

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Published On: August 4th, 2023
Blackburn and Darwen Youth Zone celebrates £2.9m boost to help youngsters find their ‘spark!’