Burnley: Aiming for the next level
Basking in his general election glory, Boris Johnson pledged to breathe new life into the economies of communities in the North that had delivered him victory. “Levelling-up” became his mantra.
Burnley, no longer that solid brick in Labour’s red wall, is now waiting to see if and how the PM’s phrase will translate into cold, hard cash.
The council, controlled by a Labour and Lib Dem coalition, and Antony Higginbotham, the town’s first Tory MP in more than a century, are jointly submitting a “significant bid” to the government’s new Levelling-Up Fund.
In total the bid amounts to an investment of £26.26m, with a fund ask of £20m. If successful, the cash will be used on key projects linked to Burnley’s town centre and Canalside masterplan.
The signs appear to look good for the borough’s levelling up prospects. It has been prioritised for the scheme and, in a visit to the town in May, housing secretary Robert Jenrick declared: “The Levelling Up Fund is exactly designed for places like Burnley.”
The fund’s aim is to boost local infrastructure projects that will have a visible impact on people and communities. A total of £4.8bn is being made available across the UK, to be spent by March 2024, part of an agenda to address regional inequality.
Burnley’s aim is to use the cash to build on other schemes which have been delivered in the town centre, including the Lower St James’s Street heritage action zone and the Pioneer Place development, set to start on site this month.
If successful, this investment will bring major benefits to people and businesses across the borough
Funding bids, to be submitted this summer, must fit within the themes of transport, regeneration and town centre investment and culture and heritage.
The council says that to ensure the strongest bid possible, it sought external support to advise on project selection.
As a result of all that work, Burnley’s bid is made up of three major projects, chosen for their fit with the fund themes, plus other considerations, including the availability of match funding.
The projects put forward are the University of Central Lancashire’s campus expansion, the completion of Manchester Road rail station’s masterplan and the creation of an eastern gateway between the town centre and Turf Moor.
Council leader Afrasiab Anwar says: “The council has worked tirelessly with partners to develop these projects and the bid. If the bid is successful, it will see a significant investment that will help transform the face of Burnley and make it more attractive to residents, visitors, shoppers and investors.
“These are exciting and ambitious plans and we’re confident that, with government support, we can deliver them to create a better future for our borough.”
The town’s MP is equally bullish. Antony Higginbotham says: “I was elected on a clear promise to level up Burnley and Padiham and that’s exactly what this bid is all about.
“It follows on from over a year of banging the drum for our area in Parliament, making sure that we are no longer forgotten. Because when I said I would bring government focus and investment to Burnley I meant it.”
He adds: “If successful, this investment will bring major benefits to people and businesses across the borough and will act as a springboard for further investment from government and business.
“This funding would be transformative, enabling us to create a thriving local economy where people want to work, live, and set up business”.
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