Burnley Council leader column: These are exciting times for Burnley

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This week marked an incredibly significant moment as I along with local dignitaries had the pleasure of attending the official opening of REEL Cinema at the new flagship Pioneer Place.

The area that I always referred to as Leo's car park has been crying out for development for many years and after numerous false dawns has finally become a reality.

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When I first took on the role of leader, one of my earliest decisions was whether to proceed with this project. This part of the town centre has long been in need of investment, and for me, there was only one viable choice: we had to make it work.

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Burnley Council leader Afrasiab AnwarBurnley Council leader Afrasiab Anwar
Burnley Council leader Afrasiab Anwar

Numerous factors had to align for this project to become a reality, including the relocation of the cinema from Manchester Road. I am deeply appreciative of KC Suri from REEL Cinema for his unwavering commitment to the project; without his dedication, this achievement would not have been possible. I would also like to extend my gratitude to all our partners who played a pivotal role in bringing this project to fruition. This includes Lancashire County Council, Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, our local Member of Parliament, and Boohoo.

I must acknowledge the role played by our elected members who believed in this project and shared the ambition to deliver for the residents of Burnley. Additionally, we owe a debt of thanks to the exceptional officers who worked tirelessly to turn this vision into reality. When the aspirations of our members align with those of our dedicated officers, progress becomes smoother.

Now that Reel Cinema is open and the other units on-site are either ready to open or already operational, our efforts continue unabated. The eagerly anticipated Nando's establishment is on the verge of opening its doors. This addition will bring a unique dining experience, and the presence of nationally recognised outlets choosing to establish themselves in Burnley is a clear indicator that we are progressing in the right direction.

We are actively working to secure tenants for the remaining unit and exploring avenues for further development across the borough. These are exciting times for Burnley, the redevelopment of Newtown Mill is progressing rapidly, and this iconic structure will soon be prepared to welcome university students. This invaluable heritage site has been rejuvenated to accommodate a contemporary Burnley.

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Similarly, progress is being made on the Town to Turf project, despite some unavoidable delays and disruptions that many of you have reached out about. It's beginning to take form, and you can already visualise how it will enhance a significant gateway into the town centre. Although it may not seem like it at the moment, the end result will unquestionably justify the wait.

For years, Burnley watched neighbouring areas with envy, but today, I can confidently say that with the acquisition of Charter Walk, the commitment from UCLAN, a truly first-class Further Education provider in Burnley College and our status as a Premier League town, this Mill Town is on the rise—a source of pride for us all.