Burnley Mechanics plans move a step closer

Burnley Mechanics
Burnley Mechanics

Plans to dramatically restore and improve Burnley historic Mechanics Theatre are gaining momentum.

A stage 1 application has been made to the Heritage Lottery Fund, which, if successful, would see council officers working with Burnley Leisure Trust to prepare and submit a stage 2 bid for £2.8 million worth of funding.

“The aim is to create an arts and cultural centre for the 21st Century,” said Coun. Lian Pate, executive member for community services. “The Mechanics is already a dynamic centre that attracted more than 76,000 visitors last year.

“We want to build on that success.”

Investment would be made in improving the 19th Century building throughout.

Work would include transforming the currently unused lower ground floor into a classroom, exhibition, training and workshop space; improving toilets, disabled access and other facilities; replacing the roof and restoring the building’s fabric; and improving the theatre’s energy efficiency to reduce running costs.

The council expects to hear by the end of this year whether it has successfully got through the initial stage of the process which includes a £117,500 development grant from HLF to move forward to the next stage.

If the application is ultimately successful the project is expected to begin in 2020 with an overall cost of around £3 million.

Burnley Mechanics Institute, as it was originally known, was opened in 1855 and provided educational and cultural facilities to the town’s rapidly expanding workforce.

The institute closed in 1959 and was re-opened the following year as a theatre. It last underwent major refurbishment in the 1980s.

Last year it won the Lancashire Tourism Awards Cultural Venue of the Year.