An exciting £1.9m lottery-funded transformation of The Whitaker will begin this month after local firm B&E Boys was awarded the contract.

The Rawtenstall project, which includes converting the former barn and stables, is being delivered by Rossendale council in partnership with the Whitaker CIC and is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund with matched funding of £189,950 from the council.

The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the awarding of the contract to the Waterfoot construction firm, however they will move on site from June 22 and visitors to Whitaker Park will begin to see progress on the development soon after.

Carl Bell, managing director of The Whitaker, said: “This is an important stage for the project as well as being good news at a difficult time for everyone. Having a local firm that understands the importance of the park and the museum to the whole area feels right. We’ll work together to deliver a place the whole Valley can be proud of.”

Project manager Charlotte Steels said they received tenders from companies all over Lancashire.

She added: “The enthusiasm that B&E Boys showed for the project really came across and the company made a strong submission.

“The company has been working through the pandemic, adhering to social distancing guidelines, and these will also be observed during the work to develop The Whitaker.”

Timelines have been altered because of the delay, and now work to create the café, exhibition and event space and public facilities is scheduled for completion in March 2021.

Rossendale council leader Coun Alyson Barnes is “delighted”.

She said: “We’re in really tough times but we will get through it. We have been working hard to progress projects despite having to respond to this awful virus.

“I hope this major project will be a symbol that Rossendale is coming out of the pandemic and we are moving forward in creating an even better borough for people to come and visit.”

A visit to Rossendale Museum, as The Whitaker used to be known, was a regular occurrence for the Boys family.

Director John Boys said: “We are very familiar with the building because as children we went to the museum often and I remember seeing the stuffed elephant. We also had our office Christmas party at The Whitaker.

“We are really excited about carrying out the project and we will be employing a lot of local people on site; on average around 25.”

The conversion of the barn and stables will free up space as the café and bar will be relocated and the vacated rooms can then be used for exhibits and art displays.

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