Ambitious schemes will ensure Burnley has bright post-pandemic future | Mark Townsend

Most important news of the week for me personally was being called for my jab.

Thursday, 25th March 2021, 3:45 pm

I was delighted to take the jab and had no qualms at all at it being the Astra Zeneca vaccine.

Our scientists are the best in the world and if they say its safe that’s good enough for me.

Great news that over 50% of the adult population have now had their first jab but we all need to remember that the virus is still very much around and the rules must still be followed.

Burnley Council leader Mark Townsend

In recent years Burnley has built a reputation as an outward looking borough with ambitious plans for the future that it delivers.

The council's Canalside and Town Centre Master Plan is the blueprint for a brighter future which has already seen the realisation of major investment in buildings and infrastructure.

This coming week could see another significant milestone towards delivering the plan when developer proposals for a major leisure scheme on the former Pioneer site on Curzon Street consisting of a multi-screen cinema and restaurants go before the council's Development Control committee.

This is a site that has had numerous false dawns and setbacks since the CoOp supermarket was demolished some two decades ago.

With funding now in place and partners ready to proceed there is now real optimism that, subject to all the necessary approvals, the spades will be in the ground later this year.

A real boost for the town centre and a clear signal that Burnley as a borough is ready to meet the challenges of a post-pandemic future.

Outside of the town centre it has been really pleasing to see that progress has been made on other projects even with the pandemic raging around us.

Amongst these are the public realm improvements and the heritage project in Padiham, the extension to the Manchester Road station car park and the positive news that consultations are starting on the development of derelict land at Burnley Teaching Hospital for extra-care accommodation.

As a council we are determined to keep the investment coming to create the environment for all our residents, no matter what stage of life, to achieve their aspirations and potential.

I was very interested in the recent Government budget announcement of a levelling up fund which could realise over £20m for Burnley.

Sounds good under the well spun Government headlines.

It must be remembered however that this is a potential one off allocation that has to be bid for and will be subject to Whitehall approval.

A decade ago the council received around £10m every year for neighbourhood renewal.

This was sustained cash over a prolonged period that could be allocated towards the major regeneration of our most challenging areas. Such ambition is needed again.

Levelling up cannot be achieved with a one off cheque that a faceless bureaucrat in London ultimately decides how it should be spent.

It should be a long term resource commitment that local people here in Burnley and Padiham can decide how it should be allocated.