Pendle Hotspots: Opportunity knocks

By Ged Henderson

17 May 2024

Nelson Pendle By Andy Ford

Pendle is the latest stop on our ongoing tour of the county’s hotspots. We brought leaders from the worlds of business, politics and education.

together at the Nelson headquarters of REM UK to find out what’s going on in the borough

Ask Mike Nuttall, property director at Brookhouse Group, what his business sees in Pendle and he’ll tell you, ‘Opportunity’.

It is why the Cheshire-based developer has teamed up with Pendle Council to regenerate Nelson, backed with £25m of government Towns Fund cash.

The aim of the joint venture is to deliver real and positive change to the town, with a focus on bringing vacant and under-used buildings back into residential and commercial use.

The central government funding played its part in drawing Brookhouse in, along with what Mike describes as the council’s “alignment” across all offices and political spectrums and full commitment to the project.

He says: “We felt it was worth the time and effort for us as a UK-wide investment business to come and get involved in Pendle. It’s not an obvious place to come and invest your time and money but we saw an opportunity here and that brought us in.”

He is also in no doubt that there are what he describes as “fundamental issues” to be addressed in Nelson and across Pendle generally, but he adds that through investment and development his company can play its part in addressing them and delivering “lasting change”.

However, he also believes now it is time to start that delivery. “You can’t keep talking about these things” he says. “We really need to deliver. We need to see things happening.

“I genuinely believe in the course of the next 18 months you’ll see practical, physical change happening within the town centre.”

Joint ventures are in Pendle’s DNA. PEARL – a long-running JV between the council and Barnfield Investment Properties – has had a transformative impact on the borough.

Its flagship development is Northlight, the impressive £32m rebirth of a historic former cotton mill into a mixed-use development which has taken 12 years to deliver. It has been a success story built on partnership.

PEARL invested £17.9m in the redevelopment and a further £11.82m was secured through the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Growth Deal, Burnley FC in the Community and its investors, the county council and Nelson and Colne College.

PEARL was originally established by Barnfield and the council as a means to encourage regeneration and specifically as a vehicle for the development of a community-based Arts, Culture and Enterprise Centre in Nelson. The JV went on to successfully transform sites across the borough.

Tim Webber, managing director of Barnfield and PEARL board member, says: “Without partnership working Northlight could never have happened.

“At the outset we had a vision. We ran a competition for architects who put together a fantastic proposal but it was never really going to work within our environment. So we had to work piecemeal.

“The apartments were a big leap of faith for all of us but we did it and it has created a community. The residents there are now beginning to engage and call themselves the ‘Northlighters’, which is fantastic. So, it’s done what we set out to achieve.”

However, Tim says the challenge of low values still remains when it comes to getting both commercial and residential developments in the borough off the drawing board.

He says: “We’ve got to try and raise values within the area because that’s what stops investment coming in. We’ve got to raise the bar.”

Rose Rouse, Pendle Council chief executive, talks about ‘the power of partnerships’ in delivering a bright future for the borough, describing the success of Northlight as “a brilliant beacon of what is possible”.

She points to the many “gems” that make up what she calls the borough’s ‘charm bracelet’. They range from its skilled business community to its countryside and its Asian heritage community.

She says: “We have some really strong assets as well as a young population. That is a good thing. That’s a really big strength that we can build on. I’m really excited about the future.

“We need to be proud of all these gems, these trinkets on the charm bracelet and really shout about them, because there are some really special things here.”

Nelson isn’t the only town in the borough that has regeneration aspirations. Colne’s newly-formed Heritage Quarter has seen work to renovate The Muni Theatre, Pendle Hippodrome and The Little Theatre, using £3.5m from the government’s Levelling Up Fund.

A further £3m of Levelling Up funding has been awarded to Colne Market Hall, which will be spent on a significant redevelopment, creating improved space for businesses and housing for town centre living.

Added to that, masterplans are being drawn up for Barnoldswick and Earby. The masterplans are long-term projects which will guide future regeneration over the next 10-15 years.

Each masterplan will create an individual vision for the town and local people on how to best transform what the town centres already offer.

Andrew Stephenson is the MP for Pendle and a government health minister. He believes the Nelson town deal and the long-term plans for the borough’s towns as opportunities to deliver “lasting change”.

He adds: “The borough has real expertise in particularly manufacturing which we need to strengthen and enhance.”

The MP believes there is another opportunity for some of the nuclear small reactor programme work to be based at Rolls-Royce in Barnoldswick. Digital is another potential growth area for Pendle’s economy. He says: “National Cyber Force is coming to Samlesbury and that links perfectly with the digital skills Nelson and Colne College is delivering for young people in the borough.”

The MP also points to the borough’s leisure and hospitality offering.

Jonathan Bowdin, marketing manager at Pendle Leisure Trust, agrees that it is important to have cultural and leisure offers are also part of an inward investment strategy.

He points to the Muni Theatre’s facelift as part of that and says: “We want to make as many people aware of our products as possible and try and make a product that people want to come and see.”

Jonathan also believes delivery is important. He says: “If we’re going to make a plan let’s go for it, let’s do it.”

Morgan Rothwell is director at D&M Creative, based in Barrowford. The creative agency has bought offices in Vantage Court and moved in earlier in the year.

He says: “What we see is an area that seems to be buoyant. It seems to have a really good feel about it. The people are very friendly. We’ve got some great clients that we love working with and they do great work.

“As I see it, we’re in a great area that is developing skills that we can hopefully ride the wave of. That’s the opportunity we saw when we invested in the area."

Enjoyed this? Read more from Ged Henderson

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