More than 4,400 new jobs, a university with 4,000 students, and 3,880 homes are all coming to Burnley, but how can developers get involved? Place North West and Burnley Council gathered the borough’s experts together to outline growth opportunities in the area for the next decade and beyond.
More than 150 people attended the event at Manchester’s Science & Industry Museum, which was delivered in partnership with Burnley Council.
Speakers included Dr Ebrahim Adia, provost at the University of Central Lancashire; Ian Scott, director and head of build-to-rent at Lambert Smith Hampton; Tim Webber, chairman of Barnfield Construction; Kate Ingram, head of economy & growth at Burnley Council; David Walker, managing director of 24 Marketing and co-founder of The Landmark; Debbie Hernon, manager of Charter Walk Shopping Centre; Andrew Dewhurst, director of Maple Grove; and Burnley Council chief executive Mick Cartledge. The event was chaired by Place North West editor Jessica Middleton-Pugh.
The event opened with an address from Cllr Mark Townsend, leader of Burnley Council. He said the last few years had been about “changing perceptions about the town” and now it was gearing up for a period of strong growth, driven by “huge investment” from both the public and private sectors.
“We have a proud industrial heritage, but we don’t want that industrial past to be a millstone around the town’s neck – it should be a catalyst for growth,” he argued, pointing towards Burnley’s burgeoning tech sector and job creation.
This was followed by a presentation from Mick Cartledge, chief executive of the council, who said:
- The recently adopted Local Plan for the borough had proved to be “controversial” and “a challenging process” but the council “got the result we wanted”
- This plan will see around 175 acres of employment land released, a figure the council had wanted to be “slightly higher”, but this will nevertheless lead to the creation of around 4,400 new jobs
- The Local Plan also releases 195 acres of land for housing, which will provide 3,880 new homes. “If you’d looked at the town 10 years ago, we would have struggled to attract developers, but that’s not the case now,” he said
- Burnley’s upcoming Town Centre and Canalside Masterplan will head to public consultation shortly, with a vision to deliver a “much broader offer” for Burnley and identifying priorities for investment
Cartledge then joined a panel featuring Andrew Dewhurst, Cllr Michael Green of Lancashire County Council; David Walker; Debbie Hernon; and Ebrahim Adia.
- Adia outlined UCLan’s approach to its new proposed campus in Burnley. The university would be targeting having 4,000 students by 2025, with curricula focussed on digital skills, medical, and social care
- “We made a strategic decision about 18 months ago to expand our campus there based on analysis – there’s a population around Burnley of half a million people but it’s the only area of its size that doesn’t have its own university,” he said
- Walker said there had been “significant growth in the digital economy in Burnley but we need to fly the flag more”; part of increasing the tech presence in the town will be driven by partnerships with education providers
- “We shouldn’t try to compete with Manchester [for example] when it comes to digital skills,” he said, “but we should develop our own offering that complements what’s going on elsewhere”
- Hernon outlined plans for the redevelopment of Burnley’s Market Square in a bid to refresh the mix of tenants. The addition of the Pioneer Place development, led by Maple Grove, would “give us a full package” for the town centre, she added
- Dewhurst said Pioneer Place was being brought forward to increase variety in Burnley’s night-time economy. He added Maple Grove is looking to target “specific occupiers” for each of the development’s 10 leisure units, which sit alongside the cinema
- The area’s transport needs should go beyond just linking Burnley to Manchester, Green said, with improvements Lancashire to Yorkshire, and Preston to Burnley links just as important to stimulate growth in the region
- Cartledge admitted there had been an “apparent loss of interest” from the Government in helping to create a Lancashire Combined Authority featuring Burnley, but added it was still on the agenda
After a networking break, Caroline Baker, partner at Cushman & Wakefield and head of the firm’s Manchester office, outlined a housing strategy for the area and residential development opportunities in the borough.
- Average house prices in Burnley are currently at “the lower end of the spectrum” at around £150,000, she said, but in terms of percentage growth the borough had seen a significant increase
- There was a clear need to diversify the choice of homes in the area with almost half of the existing stock being terraced housing, well above the national average
- With the town’s growth there are increasing opportunities for locally-based, high-wage jobs; these people will need a wider choice of housing within the borough including four and five-bed homes
- Seven areas have been identified as housing sites and growth areas: Reedley Marina; Red Leeds Road; Heckenhurst Reservoir; Brownside Road; Rossendale Road; Higher Saxifieldl and Hollins Cross Farm
- “The strong message is that although there are lower values currently, we can harness high value areas to see where developers can deliver a different product,” she said
Baker was then joined by Tim Webber, Kate Ingram, and Ian Scott on a panel discussion outlining the borough’s residential offering and future opportunities.
- Baker said building more high-quality homes in the borough was not about “making Burnley unaffordable” but about “creating a better choice to attract and retain quality entrepreneurs and investors in the area. “There’s more scope to create that choice to allow people to access both high-value and affordable housing across the borough,” she said
- Some of Barnfield’s developments had achieved prices of £500k in and around Pendle, Webber said, which showed that house prices were edging upwards: “We can achieve higher values with the right product in the right areas”
- Barnfield had taken advantage of recyclable finance from Lancashire County Council which has allowed developments to be delivered quickly, and this has been met with a bigger demand for housing
- Scott said many institutional investors were looking outside city centres towards town centres and purpose built PRS offerings, and more investors would be looking at different options to “blend up a varied portfolio”
- However, he said viability would “always be a challenge” outside high-value areas, and would continue to be so as build costs rise
- Ingram said if the build-to-rent sector was to expand in the borough, it would have to be focussed on “high-quality” with a particular focus on providing for working families, such as workers in the health sector
- “We want to attract developers that will bring a quality product that’s sensitive to the local environment,” she said. “We also want to be flexible when it comes to affordable housing; there are opportunities to deliver higher-value housing and deliver affordable homes off-site”
The presentation slides and Burnley drone footage can be accessed using the below links:
Click any image to launch gallery