Exciting plan to transform Burnley and Pendle's historic waterway into cultural destination

An ambitious development is being planned for the Leeds and Liverpool Canal which could transform communities living alongside Burnley and Pendle's historic waterway.
Brierfield's Northlight Mill would form part of the new canal projectBrierfield's Northlight Mill would form part of the new canal project
Brierfield's Northlight Mill would form part of the new canal project

To be known as 'the Pennine Lancashire Linear Park', the project would provide opportunities for people to live, play and be inspired along the iconic canal.

It is hoped the project will transform 20 miles of canal side from Blackburn to Pendle with leisure hubs, refurbished heritage buildings and spaces on show taking in Brierfield's newly-refurbished Northlight Mill and UCLan’s campus at Sandygate Square in Burnley.

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That could see open-air concerts, sports such as kayaking and canoeing, as well as the refurbishment of historic buildings into youth clubs and cafes coming to the canal.

Lancashire County Council, the Canal and River Trust, The Super Slow Way and the four local authorities in the east of the county that line the banks of the canal have today unveiled a study to test the feasibility of transforming this stretch of the canal corridor into the Pennine Lancashire Linear Park.

The Super Slow Way, an arts commissioning programme based on the banks of the canal at Rosegrove, has been a key driver behind the project.

Laurie Peake, director at The Super Slow Way, said: "The study makes the case for unlocking the assets of this long swathe of blue and green bio-diversity, in order to create multiple opportunities for people to live, play and be inspired and productive; to learn new skills and build a new, greener future for themselves and their families.

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"East Lancashire has suffered disproportionately during the pandemic and its economy is predicted to be among the 10 most heavily impacted in the UK. The area’s South Asian communities, which comprise a high proportion of the canal corridor’s population, have been particularly affected.

"Against this backdrop, the project seeks to act as a catalyst to unlock the investment required to propel urgent change and to realise the social, environmental and economic potential of the canal corridor.

"The canal provides the backbone of a new, linear park that showcases this rich post-industrial, semi-rural landscape to offer a contemporary leisure and living experience – a visitor destination, with extreme sports facilities and water sport opportunities, great new spaces for eating and drinking, exciting arts and culture programmes in indoor and outdoor spaces, new live/work facilities for the burgeoning creative industries and an array of regenerative agriculture initiatives."

Four potential eco-projects have been identified so far, starting with towpath improvements at Barrowford Lock, a £500,000 investment for enhanced biodiversity through the planting of new trees and hedgerows, improved cycling and pedestrian routes, and improved infrastructure for boats.

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Laurie added: "Physical improvements to the canal towpaths early on would bring immediate benefits to the identity of the area, the quality of the public realm, improved pedestrian connectivity, lighting and sustainable modes of transport resulting in increased footfall, improved social inclusion and a safer environment.

"New social infrastructure, such as cultural, community and educational programmes, in parallel would strengthen communities and improve quality of life."

Completed in 1816, the Leeds and Liverpool Canal was a 'motorway for the age' and helped to fuel the growth of East Lancashire's textile industry and indeed the nation's economy.

Daniel Greenhalgh, director at the North West Canal and River Trust, said: "Cutting through Pennine Lancashire, and connecting three northern powerhouse cities -Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester - the canal represents a fantastic opportunity."