The vibrant town of Burnley goes for growth
PUBLISHED: 17:22 05 January 2012 | UPDATED: 20:52 20 February 2013
It was once the richest town in Britain and a series of multi million pound developments are set to send its fortunes soaring again. Amanda Griffiths reports Photography by Kirsty Thompson
Its industrial heyday as a powerhouse of the textile industry may now be consigned to the history books, but no one could accuse Burnley of living in the past.
While many have cowered from the economic storm, this vibrant town has fought to secure millions of pounds of investment.
The list is impressive the 84 million UCLan and Burnley College campus, a 1 million project to improve the public realm on Princess Way, the 30 million maternity unit at Burnley Hospital, not to mention the 350 million Building Schools for the Future scheme that has seen every secondary school rebuilt with state-of-the-art facilities.
On top of all that the town has three new housing projects with developers either on site already or will be soon. Recession? What recession?
It would be wrong to paint a picture of town which has escaped the pain of decline but it is a prime example of a community which refused to lie down and surrender.
Today, Burnleys fortunes still lie in manufacturing but its now more about precision engineering than metal-bashing.
Burnleys biggest employer is Aircelle, part of the French aerospace giant SAFRAN, who recently completed a 3 million refurbishment of the old Michelin tyre factory, two miles from the town centre. Its less about oily rags these days and more about white lab coats.
The new UCLan and Burnley College Campus on Princess Way is striving to become a centre of excellence in the area for digital, creative and manufacturing industries.
Estelle Spence, of UCLan Burnley Campus, said: Were not just taking courses from Preston and making them fit. For example the fashion studio builds on the towns textiles heritage but now looks at eastern techniques and how to apply them to western traditions.
The university campus is also home to an Advanced Digital Manufacturing Technology Research Centre, a lab which looks at how the digital age is being used in the manufacturing process and how it can be employed in the future. It looks like space age technology but Im told that some of the smaller businesses in the area have been working like this for years and can even teach some of the big boys a thing or two.
What is likely to put Burnley on the map in terms of education, however, is the UCFB the University and College of Football Business, a 3.5 million development at Burnley Football Club.
The university, where students can gain a degree in football business with either media, marketing or finance, opened its doors in September but has been three years in the making.
The idea is that it will offer football clubs worldwide business graduates who specifically understand the needs of the sport. With 60 students, including two young women enrolled currently, applications and enquiries for the coming academic year are rolling in with numbers likely to be capped at 200.
People always ask me, why Burnley? says Philip Wilson, the chief executive of UCFB. I always say, why not? I think its quite apt, Burnley were one of the 12 founders of the Football League. This is where football was born and I think it apt that this is a re-birth. Im very proud to be a part of building a better Burnley.
Were creating something aspirational, we want people to aspire to come here like they aspire to go to places like the Royal College in London. The main objective of course is to get them a career doing something they love and going forward we have the opportunity to expand into campuses all over the world.
Weve already won a prestigious award. That shows just how well weve been received in the football industry, he says.
This is a fantastic opportunity for the town and, on the whole, people have really embraced it and been very supportive.
In five years time, Burnley will be very different. When I drive into town, every couple of weeks I can see improvements a building has been renovated here or there, there seems to be a real feeling of pride coming through now, and the Todmorden Curve will make a real difference opening Burnley up as a destination.
The Curve is a much talked about stretch of rail between Burnley and Manchester which the government has finally given the go-ahead to reopen.
Work is likely to start this year with the first train running in 2013. It will halve the travelling time.
With this taking place it has also led to a commitment in funding to redevelop the Weavers Triangle area of the town which will see at least 50 million of development including a third university campus, retail and leisure facilities as well as student accommodation. It also opens the town up as a great place to live for Manchester commuters who cant afford big city prices.
Ian Bythell is director of Pettys estate agents said: My slogan for next year is get ahead of the curve. Landlords will soon be realising this is the place to be. Have you ever looked at where Burnley is on a map of the UK? Were at the centre of everything.
In terms of property I would sum it up as value for money, variety and quality of life.
You can stand in the middle of the town and be in the countryside within ten minutes and as far as house prices go, you can get a house with a garden or back yard here or in many of the villages for what you would be paying for an apartment in the city centre.
Time to spa
Set within 100 acres of countryside, a proposed 2 million new day spa is set to reinforce the Burnley as a leisure destination.
he Crow Wood Leisure Club, which was named national health club of the year, is awaiting planning permission as we go to print.
Owner Andrew Brown explained the spa would feature a hydrotherapy pool with a cave to swim into as well as a wallow pool with heated loungers where customers can sit, read a book and relax.
A main swimming pool will stretch from inside to outside, where there will also be a couple of hot tubs and a beach bar for the summer months. Upstairs there will be 11 treatment rooms, a relaxation area, a new bar and kitchen as well as relaxation rooms in a new extension which will have fantastic views of Pendle Hill.
All the pools will be filled with saltwater at a lower concentration than sea water, but that means you dont get that chlorine smell or sting, says Andrew. We are also hoping to fill the pools with water from a bore hole on site rather than from the mains.
Weve tried to offer something thats different from anywhere else in the North West. We hope to start work early this year and be open by Christmas.
he leisure club also has an equestrian centre with new indoor and outdoor arenas and room for 50 horses on a full livery basis. On top of this Andrew has built a dedicated five-a-side-soccer centre which now sees around 120 teams playing in various leagues.
Moor is better
A 4.2 million development at Moorhouses Brewery in Burnley shows the towns business community is certainly not resting on its laurels. When MD David Grant took over ten years ago it was selling about 35 barrels a week. Today theyre averaging 347 but the new state-of-the-art complex now has the capacity create 16,000 barrels of beer a week.
David said: Its not so long ago that people would be asking me wheres Burnley when they looked at the labels on the beer. But I think the football club being in the Premiership really helped put it on the map.
Weve been showing 17 per cent year on year growth, in September and October that went up to 28 per cent and in November the increase was 44 per cent. Those are figures that most other manufacturers can only dream of.
Our beers have won more awards than any other brewery of our size and weve won a number of business awards as well. Were in 30 local pubs and in national chains and have just released a packaged product thats going to be sold in the major supermarkets.
The big thing we need to do is challenge peoples perception of Burnley were holding a series of open days so people can have a tour of the brewery, see what we do and feel proud of what people have achieved in the town.
The name Moorhouses should be as synonymous with Burnley as Guinness is with Dublin I would love to get it to that stage.
The print version of this article appeared in the January 2012 issue of Lancashire Life
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