WORK has started on the long-awaited £1million restoration of a town’s historic park.

The development of a car park is a first phase of the Heritage Lottery-funded project, which aims to breathe new life into the popular Grade II listed green space.

The project is also intended to celebrate its heritage, from its opening in 1930 to the present day.

Cllr John Harbour, the council’s executive member responsible for green spaces, said: “Consultation with park users has identified the need for parking spaces within the park, particularly for the benefit of disabled visitors.

“These are important improvements that will make parking and walking in this much-loved and very popular park easier for residents and visitors.

“The council is grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for its generous support for the restoration of Thompson Park.”

The car park improvements will also include the installation of a passing place on the access road and the installation of illuminated signs on Colne Road indicating the number of vacant spaces.

The work is set to be completed before the International 7 ¼ inch Railway Society annual meeting, which starts on September 22. That event will see steam engines brought to the park from all over Europe.

Visitors with mobility issues will have a greater ease of access to the park.

Burnley council bosses had hoped to start work on the revamp of Thompson Park in Burnley early this year.

Proposals to upgrade the town’s ‘people’s park’, which is home to a boating lake, miniature railway and paddling pool, had been in the pipeline since at least late 2011.

The improvement work comes after the council secured a grant of more than £860,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to help restore the Grade II listed green space.

The council initially won a grant of £52,600 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to prepare detailed and fully costed plans, which needed to be submitted for further lottery funding by August 2016.

It then put in a formal application towards the anticipated overall costs of the project, then estimated at £1,162,000.

The park was created with money bequeathed to Burnley Corporation by James Witham Thompson, a cotton manufacturer, who ran Trafalgar Mill, and was opened in 1930.