Representatives from partner organisations involved in the project gathered on site as Burnley Council leader Coun. Afrasiab Anwar donned hi-vis jacket and hard hat, and took control of a mechanical digger to signal commencement of the highly anticipated development.
The £23m. scheme, which will include a seven-screen cinema and five retail and leisure units, plus a 226-space car park, is set to be completed in late summer 2023 and opened in the autumn of that year.
Hoardings are going up around the former Pioneer supermarket site and the public car park has been closed temporarily to allow work on creating a new car park.
That is expected to take up to 14 weeks after which the car park will return to public use and work will begin on constructing the cinema and associated units.
The town centre, including businesses adjacent to the site, will remain open as normal throughout construction.
The multi-screen cinema will be operated by REEL Cinemas which will continue to operate from its current site in Manchester Road, Burnley, until it moves to Pioneer Place. The Manchester Road site will then be re-developed for occupation by supermarket chain Lidl GB. The adjoining Star pub will remain unaffected.
The new supermarket will create around 40 jobs and represent further investment into the local economy.
It is estimated the construction of Pioneer Place will support around 180 jobs, with a further 100-plus new jobs being created in the cinema and supporting food outlets.
The work will be carried out by the council’s development partner Maple Grove Developments, part of the Eric Wright Group.
Pioneer Place has secured funding from the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership's Getting Building Fund, Burnley borough and Lancashire county councils, and fashion company and the borough’s largest employer boohoo.
Coun. Anwar said: “We’ve waited for this day for many years and now all the hard work and concerted efforts of everyone involved have paid off. I’d like to thank all our partners in this massive project for their support in making it a reality.
“This development will enhance Burnley town centre and inject new energy into the evening economy, as well as bringing in visitors during the day. It will bring knock-on benefits to other town centre businesses.”
Minister for Levelling Up, Neil O’Brien MP, said: "Town centres are at the heart of their communities and by regenerating them, we are helping to level up across the country by supporting local economies and restoring people’s pride in the places where they live.
“I’m delighted to see work beginning on the transformative Pioneer Place project, which is backed by £3.68 million from the government’s Getting Building Fund and will help revitalise this part of Burnley.”
Debbie Francis OBE, chair of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, said: "It's fantastic to see work start on site and I'm pleased the LEP was in a position to contribute £3.68m to the project through the Getting Building Fund.
"The scheme will improve the vitality and viability of Burnley town centre, by increasing footfall and encouraging further investment. Today is an important milestone not only in the realisation of this scheme but the wider Town Centre Masterplan."
County Councillor Aidy Riggott, LCC’s cabinet member for economic development and growth, said: "After all of the challenges we've faced in recent years, it's wonderful to see construction on this major project finally get under way.
"Lancashire County Council has remained committed to this exciting project and have shown that by contributing £3m to help see it become a reality.
“Pioneer Place will be a brilliant addition to Burnley and supports our vision of making Lancashire the best place to live, work, visit and prosper."
Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham said: "It's great to finally see this project get off the ground with everyone coming together to make it a reality - Government,
Burnley Council, Lancashire County Council and the private sector.
"It has been a team effort and I'm looking forward to seeing work progress at pace.
“The Pioneer Place complex will allow us to harness more investment in the town centre from retailers and leisure operators, providing both jobs and a modern and attractive town centre offering for all.”
Jeremy Hartley, managing director of Eric Wright Group, said: “Town centre regeneration projects are, by their very nature, often complex requiring determination and commitment from the entire project team along with a belief in the wider vision for the town.
“We have partnered with Burnley Council on this scheme since March 2018 and worked in a true spirit of partnership to overcome the challenges we faced.
"And after four years of huge effort on everyone’s part, it therefore gives the whole team great satisfaction to finally start on site and see this landmark transformation of Burnley town centre take place.”
Kailash Suri, managing director of REEL Cinemas, said: "We are delighted that work will be underway shortly on our new cinema and that we will be able to offer customers old and new a truly outstanding cinema going experience, the likes of which is currently unavailable in the town.
“REEL Cinemas prides itself on offering our audience members great customer service, complete comfort and value for money. As part of the Pioneer Place development in the centre of town the new REEL Cinema Burnley will give even more members of the local community somewhere to spend quality time with family and friends."
Nick Harvey, regional head of property for Lidl GB, said: “We are delighted to play a part in the redevelopment of Burnley and demonstrate our commitment to its people and it’s community. Our first store in Burnley has proved incredibly popular with residents and we are grateful for all the support that we have received so far.
"We look forward to progressing further with our store development.”
John Lyttle, CEO of boohoo, who have committed £300,000 towards the development, said: “As a long-standing support of Burnley, which has been home to our international distribution centre for over a decade, we are delighted to see the launch of this exciting project, which will enhance the area for the local community, including thousands of our own team who live locally.
“The council has fought hard to ensure this project comes to life and we look forward to seeing it come to fruition.”
Pioneer Place forms part of a wider town centre masterplan to attract millions of pounds of investment into boosting Burnley town centre. It follows recent investment in improvements to the town centre, the creation of a Heritage Action Zone, and the council’s purchase of Charter Walk shopping centre to help secure its future.