I’m still getting over the town’s football team ( a founder member of the football league) winning promotion to the Premier League. OK we were relegated the following season but for a brief spell we had some glory – especially after beating Manchester United. And now arch-rivals Blackburn Rovers are down in the Championship with us (and not before time many would say) it’s not all bad.
But back to the award. Once the heart of the cotton industry it barely survived mill and pit closures and race riots before iit earned the award from the Department for Business Innovation.
Despite being one of the twelve most deprived areas in England and losing 45,000 manufacturing jobs since the late 20s it is the tenth best town for private sector growth and one of a handful of Lancashire towns where more businesses are being created than being closed down.
It also claims to employ twice the national average of people in manufacturing. primarily in the aerospace industry. Employment in the private sector has increased by 2.8% compared to a 3% decline in the rest of Great Britain, including the repatriation of call centres from Mumbai.
What made the difference? 125 Burnley Bondholders pay a subscription fee, pooling their resources to showcase the befits of investing in the town. Prince Charles has also shown an interest in the town through the Prince’s Trust and he is (allegedly) a Burnley FC supporter).
This is a real turn-around. I attended a briefing at a North-West development event a few years ago and we were told that East Lancashire scored worse for productivity, absenteeism, people on benefits, drug problems and on health indicators.
It’s by no means perfect. While all the secondary schools have been rebuilt and university colleges opened we still have a crap health service with East Lancashire NHS Trust on the list of failing Trusts, made worse, many in Burnley believe, by the closure of local facilities and their move to Blackburn.
And Burnley’s average house price is a third of the national average at £84,000 and still falling. The planned reopening of the Todmorden curve next year along with the modernisation of the Manchester Road railway station will give commuters a direct train to Manchester.
This will make it easier for Burnley people to commute to work inManchester and for Manchester people to spread out into a bigger commuter belt. Burnley is surrounded by lovely countryside, more than just the infamous Pendle Hill.
This is not necessarily welcome news for everyone. Plans for 15 five-bedroomed houses prices at £350,000 to be built at Loveclough just outside Burnley are being opposed by the local residents’ association.
I’ve posted about Burnley before eg the National Blues Festival is in its 25th year, and it’s nice to see a town with such a fine industrial heritage have something to be proud of again.