Burnley's great sense of pride and resilience

Recently, Burnley was said to be a borough most vulnerable to ‘economic shock’. The research, by Experian, identified areas that might be most vulnerable to issues such as business failures and job losses.

The study suggested that factors such as high crime, poor school achievement and low house prices all contribute to Burnley being amongst the least resilient places in the country.

The town was ranked 314th out of 324 local authorities. In the light of forthcoming cuts in public spending, it may be the case that Burnley’s resilience is going to be tested as the largest employment sector in the town is public administration, education and health, accounting for 31.2% of workers.

However, Burnley also hosts 6.5% of Lancashire’s entire manufacturing businesses with more than a fifth of the town’s working population engaged in this sector.

The key manufacturing employers operate in highly specialised fields including aerospace and automotive and it is these companies that may soften the blow of spending cuts.

Burnley has dealt with and overcome many setbacks over the years including closure of a number of key employers (Prestige in 1997, Michelin in 2002 and Shop Direct this year).

It moved on from the riots of 2001 that focused national attention on the town and its community issues. Racial tensions have reduced and 2009 saw the opening of Burnley’s first purpose built mosque.

Between 2005 and 2010 approximately £65m of government investment was poured into the town’s poorest areas.

Whilst research suggests Burnley is not the most affluent borough in the country, there is still a great sense of pride and resilience that endures, and that is why PM+M continue to be associated with the town.

There are developments planned that will do much to develop Burnley’s contribution to the economy of Pennine Lancashire. The town centre is already home to four major retail parks and work on ‘The Oval’, a new £40million shopping centre, is now scheduled to start next year after Primark and Next agreed to become tenants.

In recent times, a number of industrial estates and business parks have been developed with plans for a further development, Burnley Bridge, near Hapton.

However, more of this kind of investment is required so that proposals such as the ‘Weavers’ Triangle’ can move from being just a plan in the pipeline.

Improving Burnley’s transport links is key to regenerating the town’s future and the biggest project is the ‘Todmorden Curve’ to allow direct links to Manchester.

Given the town’s strength in aerospace and advanced manufacturing and the availability of a highly skilled workforce, Burnley would benefit greatly from government money steered to attract manufacturing companies to the area.

Hopefully, the forthcoming Local Enterprise Partnerships will provide such investment.

Stephen Anderson
PM+M Solutions for Business