A DEAL to bring a flagship upmarket superstore to the former Blackburn covered market is set to be sealed this summer.

Senior councillors have approved the legal arrangements to put the search for a major retail player, to occupy the vacant 3.25-acre site, into overdrive.

The land sale will bring the borough more than £5million and put in place by 2016 a major piece of their plans to revit-alise the town centre shopping area.

The council is determined to bring an upmarket retailer to the key location, with a store of between 25,000 and 60,000 sq ft and car parking. It will complement the £33million Cathedral Quarter develop-ment, where work is already under way.

With Sainsbury’s agreement with Thwaites to develop their Star Brewery site dropped, Blackburn with Darwen Council executive board reviewed its plans for the empty land, once home of the five-day market hall.

It confirmed Northpoint Developments, a Manchester firm with a proven track record for such schemes, as its key partner, authorising it to step up their search for a high-quality occupant.

Several major retailers are in talks and Sainsbury’s confirmed, following the expiry of its deal with Thwaites, it remained interested in locating a flagship outlet in Blackburn.

Borough finance chief Andy Kay said he hoped a deal could be signed by this summer as the search for a new store on the land was intensified. He is determined the new development should be a quality company, rather than a discount store, such as Aldi or Lidl.

Firms approached include Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, and Booths although non-food retailers, such as John Lewis, are in the frame. Senior councillors would also welcome a new store development by Marks and Spencer.

Coun Kay said: “We have reviewed our arrangements and confirmed Northpoint as our development partner. It is already in talks with several retailers, and this decision gives them the green light to go full steam ahead. We hope to have a deal for the new store on the old market site signed and sealed by the late summer.”