Bye to the man who put spark into Padiham

Tony Fitzgerald
Tony Fitzgerald

The man who sparked the regeneration of Padiham and helped it to become an award-winning town centre is leaving for pastures new after two years.

Padiham town centre manager Tony Fitzgerald’s efforts helped Padiham to buck the national trend of decline, reducing the percentage of empty shops in the town from 20% to 15%. And he achieved this in his first year in office.

Mr Fitzgerald, who has been appointed as the new town centre manager for Altrincham, said: “I will be very sad to leave Padiham but I believe I am leaving it in a much better state than when I arrived with several initiatives and projects in place that will take it forward.’’

Mr Fitzgerald’s post was created as part of a planning agreement between Burnley Council and Padiham’s new £11m. Tesco store which opened two years ago. Originally only funded for two years the job was such a success it was extended for another year. Mr Fitzgerald spearheaded the town’s Home-Made on the High Street campaign which helped to grow several new grassroots businesses in the town. The campaign won an award from the Association of Town Centre Managers’ Town’s Alive body. The scheme was judged to have created 22 jobs and around £100,000 of inward investment.

The idea of creating a “Pop Up’’ shop which grew a collective of businesses, one of which took over an empty shop in Padiham, proved to be an economically astute scheme, giving advice and financial support. It also helped to break the pattern of empty shops staying empty for years in Padiham.

Working in partnership with Padiham Town Council, Mr Fitzgerald also launched regular arts and crafts days and farmers’ markets in Padiham, projects that the father-of-two is passionate about. These events have been outstanding successes, drawing new businesses and customers into the town.

Mr Fitzgerald said: “With the arrival of Tesco the challenge was to get people who do their regular shopping there to come into the town centre and see what else Padiham has to offer.

“I am happy to say that the farmers’ markets in Padiham have become among the most successful in Lancashire. They have been well supported by the people of Padiham and now they are in place I hope that will continue.’’

Mr Fitzgerald also played a major role in launching a guide to Padiham’s shops and businesses that has been posted out to 40,000 households.

He has also helped to create a website that provides a comprehensive guide to the history and heritage of the town. This ties in with the creation of the “Padiham brand.’’

Mr Fitzgerald said: “I cannot take all the credit for the developments in Padiham. “Shop owners, the business community, the town council and the people of this town have worked hard to make Padiham the place it is today.

“I will be keeping a close eye on how things progress here in the future.’’

A decision has not been made yet on whether Mr Fitzgerald will be replaced. A spokesman for Burnley Council said: “We are currently reviewing the future of this position and funding options.

“In the meantime we will continue to promote Padiham and would encourage people to visit to keep up to date with events and the latest on retail, craft and farmers’ market events coming up in the town.”