A FRIENDS’ group has been given a grant of £20,000 to transform a silted-up lodge into a fishing pond.

The Environment Agency has pledged the cash for work to the lodge in Ashton Park, Darwen.

It comes after the Friends of Ashton Park successfully bid for £3,480 from Darwen Town Council parks committee to repair leaks in the lodge wall.

On the back of the work, the Environment Agency will plough £20,000 into de-silting and deepening the lodge, with the long-term aim of making it a haven for fishing enthusiasts.

Marsh House councillor Tom Evans, who is also chairman of the Friends of Ashton Park, said: “It will take a couple of years to sort out.

“It will take that time to stabilise the environment and get the insects back to the lodge and eventually fish.

“They will deepen the lodge by 18 inches through de-silting it and keeping it that way.

“It is just a mess at the moment but when it is done it will be absolutely beautiful.

“They are also looking at making the island in the middle bigger and reshaping it slightly.”

Coun Evans said Ashton Park was finally on its way up after years of neglect.

He said: “You can see the potential in Ashton Park but it does not live up to that.

“This will be a real boost for the park.”

A previous project, funded by the town council, saw a marshy area of the park drained and turned into a football pitch.

Coun Evans added: “They did a really good job as it was practically a bog full of reeds.

“They drained it and drove a Land Rover over it and it didn’t even make a dint, it was that solid.

“And now there are goalposts there so people can come on and play football.

“That is what we want. We need people to come in and use the park as that is the only way to keep vandals away.”