“We need to start changing people’s perceptions.”
This is just one of the objectives set out by Burnley and Padiham’s new town centre manager, Catherine Price, who is adamant that both town centres already have a lot to offer and has challenged the public to come and see for themselves.
It’s not all charity and pound shopsCatherine Price
“We’re working hard on changing people’s perceptions. There’s already so much here, people just don’t know about it. We’re working on marketing campaigns to make people more aware and we’re coming up with different ideas all the time for events and festivals.
“Burnley is a market town and the market is looking really good at the minute. There are loads of places to eat there – Caribbean, Thai, Portuguese, Czech – but I bet a lot of people don’t even realise this.
“My job is to support the businesses that are currently here and help bring new ones in. We want a vibrant, exciting town centre, one which people want to visit.”
A big part of this, according to Catherine, is the night-time economy, an area the council is keen to maximise.
“For a while there have been very few places to go and get something to eat after work but that’s all changing now,” she said. “The new Italian restaurant ‘The Palazzo’ has opened, there’s Baltic Homeland on Lower St James’ Street and the old Red Lion has just recently re-opened as a really nice cafe bar called Craft.
“We’re starting to see a turn and that’s good. Burnley nightlife is not just about clubbing. We want people to come out straight from work, enjoy a bite to eat and then maybe go on to have a few drinks. It’s our job, along with the bars and these new places that are opening, to give people a reason to come into town earlier, to stay out after work.
“If a town centre is going to meet the needs of people it has to offer something morning through to night.”
Catherine, who has a degree in regeneration, was the marketing and town centre manager in Rawtenstall for 10 years.
Despite only being in her new role for the past two months she says she has been overwhelmed by the positivity in and around both towns but is aware that there is still a lot of work to be done.
“There is a lot of positivity but of course there is some anxiety and there is that need for support. It’s not easy for new businesses – we want to help them make the most of what they have got.
“Some businesses may be struggling to promote themselves and that’s where we can come in. We can help them with promotion or give them advice about putting on events, how to make the most of their shop front, things like that.
“It’s not all pound shops and charity shops which I know is what people think. These shops do have a place in the town centre because we have to cater for differences in disposable income but we try and provide a wide retail offering.
“We want a nice mix of shops to compete with other town centres. Obviously it’s good to have your Nexts and your Mark and Spencer but if your high street has exactly the same shops as other high streets then it is not going to stand out.
“You need to do things that are a bit different. Pandora is a fantastic addition to the town, a multi-million pound company but we also want specialist independent shops.
“Padiham for instance, its unique selling point is specialist independent businesses. It is a really unique town with plenty of character and there really are some fantastic little shops there.”
With car parking charges in Burnley set to rise in the new year, Catherine is more than aware of the potential hurdles that lie ahead.
“Parking is a really tricky one. I see it from one side in that you have to charge in order to give your town centre a value plus you need that turnover of spaces for customers. However, we are aware that it can create a barrier for people wanting to come into town. So we have to make sure people have that reason to come to town.”
It is a challenge she’s more than relishing.
“I’m loving it here. I just feel really giddy every day. One of the great things about this job is that you’re always learning. If you’re out somewhere and you see something interesting you’re thinking of ways to bring it to Burnley.
“What we do need is for people to come down and support the town. It’s the snowball effect. More people come into town, that makes it more attractive for potential businesses and then the centre begins to thrive.
“What is really good is that feeling that everyone is wanting to work together. It’s an exciting time.”