Residents and businesses in Burnley are being asked for their views on a draft plan that could provide a £100m boost to the local economy and create 1,000 new jobs.
Earlier this year, the council announced plans to bring forward a major new leisure development. This will include working with Reel to relocate its cinema into the town centre. A draft masterplan, which is out for public consultation, provides further details on this and a range of other projects that are proposed over the next decade.
Burnley Council leader Mark Townsend said: “We have completed the improvements to the area, and the private sector has invested with new openings and improvements to shop frontages. But this was just the start. The masterplan needs to build on that.
“Some people may ask: ‘why keep spending money on the town centre? Why is that a priority?’ My answer is that the town centre is an engine of growth for the local economy. Many town are struggling; Burnley’s is growing. I want that to continue.
“But it’s not all about the economy and jobs. A brilliant town centre is also good for local pride. When I walk through town today, I feel a buzz about the place that wasn’t there 10 years ago. This plan is about making sure that in 10 years from now, even more people are enjoying it.”
Councillor Asif Raja, executive member for economy and growth added: “This isn’t pie in the sky. Burnley Football Club, the University of Central Lancashire, and the county council are right behind the plan. A lot of what we want to achieve is possible because the council owns the land. The council’s job is to bring together investment from the council, the wider public sector, and business, so we can deliver aspects of the masterplan in the very near future.
“Other proposals in the masterplan are more aspirational. Nevertheless, we need to plan for all the changes we want to see in the town centre, so that if and when funding becomes available, we can target those resources at schemes that are part of a coherent plan. We want local businesses and residents to give us their views, so that the whole borough can get behind the changes that are coming.”
Leader of Lancashire County Council, Geoff Driver CBE, is also backing the future of the town centre: “Following our investment in the area with Burnley Council, the response of shoppers and traders has been really positive. I agree, however, that we shouldn’t just stop there and expect the growth to continue. Towns like Burnley are part of what makes Lancashire special. It is key to the county’s economic future, so we need to plan for the next phase of Burnley’s transformation.”
In the next four years, the key proposals are:
A major new leisure development: “Pioneer Place.” The plan is for Reel cinema to move from its current site in Manchester Road, on the edge of the town centre, to a new multi-screen complex at Curzon Street. The new site will also include new food, beverage and retail units. The council previously announced that a national supermarket chain would take over and convert the existing cinema site. The masterplan proposes that as part of the development of the new cinema site at Curzon Street, a new public square is built to connect the site into the wider street network, with improved pedestrian access around that part of the town. The council will announce further details on the Pioneer Place project before the end of the year.
Continued improvement to Charter Walk shopping centre, including new frontages for the shops facing Market Square and the relocation of the market hall access stair.
The development of a university campus site. The University of Central Lancashire () has taken ownership of Victoria Mill on Trafalgar Street so it can expand in Burnley. The priority, then, is to create student accommodation around Square. A longer-term option is to develop the George Street Mill site, which is between the Town Centre and . Largely derelict at present, the area could become a future university campus site, including additional teaching buildings for , with more student accommodation, and a small number of food and drink outlets.
Dr. Ebrahim Adia, Provost of , said: “This is a really exciting time for Burnley. The masterplan shows what tremendous opportunities there are here. Our aim is to educate 4,000 students in by 2025; that is a 10-fold increase on current numbers. We’ll need new accommodation and leisure facilities to accommodate that growth.”
Alex Wagstaff, speaking on behalf of the owners of Charter Walk, added: “There are regular news reports about how town are dying on their feet. Don’t always believe it. Burnley is one of those areas that is finding its niche and still has room to grow. We are investing in Charter Walk because the town centre is getting better and better. That doesn’t happen by accident. It requires good design and good public spaces. With this plan, Burnley is keeping the momentum up.”
Looking further ahead, the draft masterplan describes other possible options, including:
If there is sufficient demand for additional high quality office space, the former Thompson Centre site could be developed.
A Youth Zone facility located at nearby Croft Street. If realised, the Youth Zone would be a new service run by Burnley Football in the Community and Burnley Leisure, and would include activities for young people in the heart of the town centre close to public transport connections.
The masterplan includes a section on car parking and transport matters. The Curzon Street development will be on an existing car park. The draft masterplan recommends that parking for 125 cars is included within the scheme. It is also suggested that to offset any reduction in the number of car parks, the capacity of those that remain would need to increase.
Another long-term aspiration is to revamp Yorkshire Street. This could include improving pedestrian access to Turf Moor. The masterplan says “the large roundabout junction arrangement at the Church St /Centenary Way / Yorkshire Road junction is very unhelpful to pedestrian movement across all junction approaches and the pedestrian subway is uninviting.” The masterplan proposes a redesign of the junction, with additional space given over to pedestrians: “There is also great potential to the processional route to Turf Moor with lighting columns, signage / flags, and tree planting, which would add to the sense of occasion on match days.”
Dave Baldwin, chief executive of Burnley Football Club, said: “Visiting football fans already come away from the town with a great impression. What they find is good mix of high street and local retailers, craft beer bars, and vibrant cafés. The enduring memory for many is how friendly and helpful the people are. We’ve got a town centre to be proud of and the football club wants to be part of making it even more special. If we are able to deliver on the suggested improvements around Turf Moor, it would really enhance the match day experience.”
The draft masterplan is available to view on the council’s website http://bit.ly/2NxWmhD
The consultation will run until 22nd October.
To learn more about the plan and to give feedback, members of the public will also be able to attend a drop-in session in the town centre; details on this will be announced shortly on the council website, Twitter and Facebook feeds. A presentation and Q & A session on the masterplan will also be held at the October meeting of the Town Centre Partnership, which is made up of local retailers.