Burnley well on its way to becoming a university town | Burnley Council leader Afrasiab Anwar column

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With the announcement this week that we have acquired the iconic Newtown Mill, our ambition to become a university town has taken another major step forward and we can proudly say we are well on the way to deliver on the ambitions we set out four years ago.

The Town Centre and Canalside Masterplan adopted in 2018 recognised the importance of the town centre and set out a clear vision for its future, enabling us to develop a Round 1 bid for £20 million to the Levelling Up Fund.

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Derelict Burnley mill set for exciting transformation as UCLan expansion plans g...

Our projects were shovel ready, with match funding in place, giving us a much better chance of being successful.

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

UCLan are currently well on track to meet their target of increasing student numbers from 200 to 4,000 by 2025. With a massive expansion in medical course provision, a 140-bed student accommodation on Sandygate Square, a new campus library and student union space, the ‘Canalside Campus’ is now starting to become a reality. A huge boost for the whole town on this key gateway to the town.

The acquisition of Newtown Mill, in the historic Weavers Triangle will not only bring this derelict landmark back to life but also help to meet the existing and emerging skills’ needs of Burnley and East Lancashire, developing the next generation of key workers in areas such as medicine, health, nursing, policing and social work.

As we welcome new students to the town it is important that we provide them and our residents with a wider offer to meet all their needs.

Our decision to purchase Charter Walk Shopping Centre means we are now in control our own destiny.

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The purchase not only ensures the stability of our town centre but also allows us to shape future development based on the needs of our communities.

Pioneer Place is our flagship leisure led development and the final piece of the jigsaw.

After many false starts, this year we made it a reality, with work starting on site earlier this year.

The scheme includes a multi-screen cinema along with five new restaurants. Providing diversification in what the town centre offers, Pioneer Place will complement the UCLan development by providing a haven for students, generating extra footfall to support other businesses and bringing public pride in our town centre – something that is important to all our residents.

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This is all in addition to the work in Padiham town centre where we have undertaken Public Realm improvements through the Townscape Heritage initiative. We continue to work with the Environment Agency to develop flood defence scheme in response to the floods back in 2015.

This is a very exciting time for Burnley and despite the challenges of the past two years we have continued to push forward with our plans.

None of this could have been possible without collaboration and strong partnerships. I would like to thank all our partners for their continued support over the past 12 months and look forward to working on exciting new projects going forward.