PLANS to bring a JD Wetherspoon pub to Darwen are getting closer, but the process is still a long way from completion.

Bosses at the discount pub chain took over the former Railway Road Wesleyan Methodist Church after it was vacated by discount shop A&M Bargains last year.

Plans to transform the building into one of its pubs were approved by Blackburn with Darwen Council’s planning committee in June, but it has stood empty ever since.

Rumours that a covenant preventing the sale of alcohol had proved a stumbling block have been denied by a spokeswoman for the Methodist Church.

She said there had been a covenant but it had ended a year ago.

Bosses at the chain confirmed they were still interested in the site, but said it would be a while before the pub would be ready.

Spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “Since we were given planning permission, we have revised the scheme somewhat.

“Because it is a listed building, we had to resubmit for listed building consent. That went in on December 17.

“And an application for a licence to sell alcohol will be submitted in the next fortnight.

“If both of these go as we hope, then we will be ready to finalise the purchase of the building.”

Mr Gershon added that an exchange had been made for the building, but the firm would not finalise the deal until the final go-ahead was given by the borough council.

He said: “We are as keen as ever to open a pub in Darwen.

“We haven’t got a date for when work could start or anything at the moment but things are moving in the right direction.”

The church, which dates from the mid-19th century, closed in 1968.

A&M Bargains closed in January last year, when owner Amanda Whittingham pulled out after 14 years of trading in the town.