Over the past week, trying to move forward some key local projects has been at the top of my agenda.
Unemployment in Pendle has now fallen by 49% from its peak, the number of apprenticeships has doubled and our town centres are showing clear signs of improvement, but challenges remain.
One of the biggest challenges remains Brierfield Mill.
Thanks to a grant from the current Government, Pendle Council was able to buy Brierfield Mills in 2012. Under the previous Government the building, formerly the home of Smith and Nephew, had been sold to an Islamic charity that had planned to convert the site into a 5,000 place girl’s boarding school.
The current Government’s action means the council can regenerate this landmark site.
However, this is a massive project for the council – a 380,000sq. ft listed building and seven acre site. I have therefore worked closely with the council to help move things forwards and am pleased that significant progress has been made. Brierfield, along with over 50% of Pendle, now benefits from “assisted area” status, which I successfully lobbied for down in Westminster.
Architects have come up with an impressive vision for the site (which will be renamed Northlight) including 71 retirement flats, a 78 bed hotel and spa, leisure facilities, business units, a new marina, and a family pub.
There is also a possibility of locating a new “Institute of Cyber Security” in the development and I was pleased to arrange for representatives of Training2000 from Pendle to meet with Minister Francis Maude in the Cabinet office to discuss this.
With any project of this size, there are big challenges to overcome, but from meeting with key business leaders, Pendle Council, the Lancashire Local Economic Partnership, Ministers Greg Clark, Eric Pickles and others it is clear that momentum is building.