Historic Burnley high street selected for government funding

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Burnley has been selected as one of 14 towns across the North West to be offered government funding to give them a new lease of life and help them recover from declining footfall and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

The £95m. government-funded High Streets Heritage Action Zone programme, which is delivered by Historic England, is intended to unlock the potential of the high street, fuelling economic, social and cultural recovery.

Burnley's High Street Heritage Action Zone is centred on Lower St James' Street, which is a key thoroughfare through the town, defined by Victorian buildings.

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A key building in the area is the Grade II listed Empire Theatre which is the sole survivor of five variety music halls in Burnley and the only purpose-built Victorian theatre of its kind in East Lancashire. Now being restored by the Burnley Empire Trust, the building has been on the Theatres at Risk Register since it began in 2006.

Lower St James Street. Google streetviewLower St James Street. Google streetview
Lower St James Street. Google streetview

Burnley was confirmed as a recipient of the scheme last year, allowing work to commence already, and it has now been confirmed that the total Government funding will be £1,261,420, delivered through Historic England.

The work, which is already underway, will see the street landscape improved to attract new businesses and footfall to the area, joining up the growing student population and Burnley's town centre.

Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham said the funding was part of the government's bid to "level up across the country” and that Lower St James Street “will benefit from much needed upgrades, bringing it in line with other recent developments in the town centre.

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He added: “I want to see the high streets of Burnley and Padiham thriving again and have made this clear to the Government. Lower St James Street hosts a number of historic buildings that are in desperate need of regeneration, and I’m pleased to see that the Government has taken action by providing this much needed funding.

"Connecting the town centre with the new developments on Sandygate is great, and alongside recent spending commitments in Padiham, will ensure that both high streets can bounce back after coronavirus."

The High Streets Heritage Action Zone initiative in England is funded with £40m. from the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport’s Heritage High Street Fund and £52m. from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s Future High Street Fund.

A further £3m. will be provided by the National Lottery Heritage Fund to support a cultural programme.

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On top of this £95m., the government’s £1.57 billion Cultural Recovery Fund will help to tackle the impact the pandemic has had on arts organisations and heritage sites and breathe new life into historic high streets across the country.

Catherine Dewar, North West Regional Director at Historic England, said: “Our high streets bring people together. They are places to socialise, shop, run businesses and be part of our local community. Every high street across the North West has a distinctive history that can be harnessed to help it achieve a prosperous future."