A packed coach of Place readers enjoyed a sunny day out in Burnley, viewing strategic sites and ongoing developments in the latest of the Place on Tour series.
Among the attendees were planners, developers, agents, builders and other professionals from firms including CBRE, Capita, Hourigan Connolly, Grosvenor, Indigo Planning, DWF, Orbit Developments, Knight Frank and Napthens.
The event was sponsored by Burnley Council and Burnley Bondholders. Joining guests on the coach were, from the council, Kate Ingram, head of regeneration and planning, Cllr Julie Cooper, leader, Mike Cook, director of economic regeneration, and Steve Rumbelow, chief executive.
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After meeting for breakfast at De Vere Hotel in Bury the coach departed for Burnley Bridge Business Park, the 70-acre £50m employment site next to junction 9 of the M65 by developer Eshton. The park is currently on site with Eric Wright Civil Engineering installing the vital bridge across the Leeds-Liverpool Canal and the first phase units; a 61,500 sq ft refurbishment and 29,000 sq ft of new speculative development. As well as the industrial premises, there will be a residential phase alongside the employment park, currently being marketed to house builders.
Burnley Bridge Business Park received a £3.85m grant from the European Regional Development Fund and a £2.4m loan from Lancashire's Growing Places Fund.
There followed a brief drive to the Blythes housing site in the nearby village of Hapton. The 38-acre former William Blythe chemical plant site is being marketed by agent Dove Haigh Phillips. There has been extensive remediation work carried out ready for a house builder to buy the site, where one third of the land will be available for development, the remainder for a nature park.
After Hapton, it was on to AMS Technology Park for a change of scene, a tour of the AMS Neve factory producing Oscar-winning sound desks for the major Hollywood film studios. Mark Crabtree, managing director and founder of the high-tech business, gave guests a tour of the facility, where recording equipment for the majority of Oscar-winning films is produced. Crabtree is a strong advocate of Burnley and a driving force behind the Burnley Bondholders group which shares resources to market the town to inward investors and visitors.
The wider AMS Technology Park is a joint venture with Barnfield Construction containing bespoke and speculative commercial units for other advanced manufacturing occupiers keen to modernise their business premises. The park provides offices and industrial units from 2,500 sq ft to 10,000 sq ft.
The final stop before lunch was the On the Banks development in the historical industrial area of Weaver's Triangle close to the town centre, now home to a new £10.3m University Technical College designed by Capita. Other phases planned or on site include offices for New Call Telecom, small work units in former canalside cottages, a square of restaurants and bars, a live music venue, regional base for Princes Trust and a new pedestrian bridge completing a circuit through the development. Guests toured the UTC, which opened to students interested in vocational training in engineering and construction in 2013 and heard from developer Tim Webber, chairman and managing director of Barnfield Construction, delivering On the Banks with Burnley Council.
A relaxed lunch was then taken at the stunning Crow Wood spa on the edge of the South Pennine Moors, developed on the site of a former 100-acre dairy farm by local entrepreneur Andy Brown.
During lunch there were brief welcome presentations from the council's Steve Rumbelow and Cllr Julie Cooper and agent Mike Dove from Dove Haigh Phillips. The recurrent message was that Burnley is open for business and enjoying a wave of development successes underpinned by several Regional Growth Fund wins, investment in educational facilities and the attractiveness of the borough's quality of life. The forthcoming direct train service to Manchester, due to open in late 2014, was one of the signs of continuing economic expansion for the town, named the country's most enterprising place in a government contest in 2013.
After lunch, the coach departed for Innovation Drive, the £60m new aerospace supply park. Barnfield acquired the site from the Homes & Communities Agency and has started work on the 120,000 sq ft first phase, to be occupied by Kaman Tooling and BCW Engineering. The shed was formerly occupied by tyre company Michelin, and is being comprehensively refurbished.
In strong late-October sunshine Tim Webber explained his vision for the site, set to capitalise on the strong aerospace business base in Burnley. The 27-acre site has capacity for 400,000 sq ft in total.
The last stop before returning guests to the drop-off point in Bury was the surface car park in the site of the former William Thompson recreation centre in the town centre, where the council, owner of the land, would like to see a new office development.
Guests said the day trip had changed their perceptions of Burnley for the better. The local authority has a more proactive and pro-development approach than many guests had experienced elsewhere and deserved to reap the benefits.
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Place on Tour is available in your area. To get involved contact Paul Unger on email or phone at firstname.lastname@example.org, 07966 535 262.