A 24-hour respite and activity centre for children and young adults with disabilities has opened.
The £1 million state-of-the-art facility at the previously unoccupied Masonic Hall in Oswaldtwistle has created around 30 jobs and caters for children and young adults up to the age of 25 with disabilities.
Planning approval for the ‘Big Blue Door’ centre, which has moved from its previous base in Blackburn after 14 years, was granted back in 2012.
Owner Andrea Brighouse said it has ‘taken a long time’ for all the work and approvals to be completed and they are ‘delighted’ to have now opened the facility.
She said: “We are very excited about the move. It is a bigger premises with better facilities and is something we have been after for a while.
“We have completely gutted the building and have a hydrotherapy pool, play area and activity room.
“Although we were based before in Blackburn, 99 per cent of our clients come from all over Lancashire like Southport, Preston and Rawtenstall.
“It is probably a bit more accessible here in Oswaldtwistle with the motorway nearby.”
The building on Albert Street has been empty since members of Church and Oswaldtwistle Freemasons opted to leave in 2011 after more than a century because of high running costs.
Andrea, 45, said they currently have around 100 clients and the centre includes eight beds for overnight stay.
She said: “We looked after all kids with disabilities but we specialise in autism.
“We have a good reputation and are one of Lancashire County Council’s preferred providers and are Ofsted approved.
“When I was 17 I wanted to be a fashion designer but then I had my baby Lora who was born with autism and I got into this job as a means to an end.
“I would never have gotten into this if it wasn’t for her and I found out that I really liked it and was really good at it.
“I worked in social services for a long time and I just thought there was a better way out there and we needed a flexible service so I set it up myself.”
Andrea said local residents have been very supportive.
She said: “We I first bought the building I went to see all the neighbours and explained what we were doing and didn’t want them to worry.
“They have all been lovely with us.”