Canal & River Trust, the charity that cares for 2,000 miles of the nation’s waterways, has submitted plans to transform Finsley Gate Wharf in Burnley into a hive of activity for the local community and visitors.
Known locally as Mile Wharf, it is one of the oldest wharves on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, dating from between 1700 and 1830. The Grade II Listed buildings, which include three warehouses, a canal cottage, outbuilding and blacksmith forge, are in a poor state of repair, having been unused for several years.
The Trust began making plans to bring the site back into use three years ago, achieving initial Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) support to carry out emergency repair work and take the project forward.
Thanks to money raised by National Lottery Players, HLF has now approved a £2.5 million grant through its Heritage Enterprise programme, which helps when the cost of restoring an historic building is so high that, without additional financial intervention, putting it back into use would not be commercially viable.
This has allowed the Trust to prepare plans and submit a planning application to Burnley Council this week.
The project will see the site transformed into a leisure attraction and community and educational space, offering boat trips and boat hire, a café and visitor accommodation. A function room and learning area would also allow local community groups and schools to enjoy and find out about Burnley’s waterway heritage, wildlife and features.
Ian Sprott, development surveyor at Canal & River Trust, said: “We are delighted to be taking this exciting project forward with funding from the National Lottery, and the support of Burnley Council, local residents who put forward their views on the project, and tenants Finsley Gate Wharf Ltd. The proposals have generated a lot of positive interest locally and we are excited to bring this community facility to life.
“The site will become a real hive of canal-side activity for Burnley, offering a space where people can learn about the waterway environment, get out on the water, and simply spend time relaxing and enjoying the fresh air.”
Burnley Council leader Mark Townsend said: "Burnley Council sees the restoration of Finsley Gate as a strategic development for the borough as it will help to kick-start the regeneration of the part of the historic Weavers’ Triangle area joining Burnley town centre and Burnley Wood.
"There has been significant housing re-development in Burnley Wood, as well as significant investment in Burnley town centre, and the Finsley Gate restoration project plays a key part in joining up that investment in these areas."
Glenn Davidson and Lee Shepherd, directors at Finsley Gate Wharf Ltd, commented: “We are both thrilled and excited by the regeneration of Finsley Gate Wharf and look forward to bringing new life to the area. Finsley Gate Wharf is going to become a national tourist destination that will make the people of Burnley proud.”
The planning application is expected to be decided in late spring 2018. Work could start over the summer and take around 12 months to complete.
Find out more about the Canal & River Trust’s work and how you can help care for the waterways, at: www.canalrivertrust.org.uk