Burnley’s university town ambitions take another major step forward

Burnley’s ambition to become a university town has taken another major step forward.

Burnley Council has acquired the vacant Newtown Mill, on the edge of the town centre, to enable the next step of the University of Lancashire’s (UCLan) ambitious expansion plans for Burnley to go ahead.

The purchase will be funded through the Government’s Levelling Up programme.

The deal will enable the council and UCLan, to progress exciting redevelopment plans to create a thriving canalside campus in the historic Weavers’ Triangle area.

It follows the expansion of UCLan into the nearby Sandygate Mill last year, accommodating a new campus library and Student Union space.

The acquisition and redevelopment of the former Newtown Mill in Queen’s Lancashire Way will create around 35,000 sq ft of space to accommodate innovative teaching facilities and a business/enterprise zone, as well as creating new public spaces together with public realm improvements to Sandygate.

The site will provide a state-of-the-art teaching building with inspirational heritage features, high-quality teaching rooms, student social space and a business and public engagement area. 

The scheme will be delivered through the council’s joint venture with Barnfield.  Day Architecture has been appointed a to draw up plans for the building and a planning application will be submitted next month.

The UCLan campus expansion forms part of Burnley’s Levelling Up Fund programme, which was given the green light last October.

Councillor Afrasiab Anwar, Burnley Council leader, said: “The council developed and approved its Town Centre & Canalside Masterplan in 2018 and the expansion of UCLan was a key part of the masterplan.  This enabled the council to secure the Levelling Up Fund Grant and the development of Newtown Mill for UCLan’s growing campus is another example of the council delivering its masterplan.”

Councillor Asif Raja, the council’s executive member for economy and growth, said: “UCLan is an emerging institution within the town, and through this unique opportunity provided by the Levelling Up Fund it can take its campus presence to the next stage, raising the aspirations of the borough’s young people and firmly establishing Burnley as a university town.

“The acquisition of the former Newtown Mill is great news and takes us another step closer to bringing this exciting project to fruition utilizing an iconic building on a key gateway to the town.”

Professor Graham Baldwin, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), said: “This is another pivotal and exciting development in our ongoing plans to raise young people’s aspirations in the area, respond to local employers’ skills needs and support the regeneration of Burnley.

“We are grateful for the support from the Levelling-Up Fund and the backing from key partners including Burnley Council, Antony Higginbotham MP and Burnley Bondholders. 

“Together with Sandygate Halls, our first student halls of residence, Burnley is rapidly establishing itself as an attractive canal side campus.  It will mark another key milestone in the drive to transform Burnley into a university town and part of UCLan’s ambitious plans to increase student numbers to 4,000.

“We continue to grow our course portfolio 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. 

“In addition, Newtown Mill aims to build on our employer engagement strategy so local companies benefit from degree apprenticeship courses in areas such as digital, cyber, engineering and management as well as access research expertise and business support programmes to improve business competitiveness and innovation.”

Tim Webber, Chairman of Barnfield Developments said “We’re really excited to be working on this scheme, which will be a great addition to the work that we have already completed, in partnership with the Council, in the Sandygate area”.

Burnley Council secured Levelling Up investment of £19.9million to bring forward this scheme and other key projects. The funding will also enable significant environmental improvements to the area between Turf Moor and the town centre, and further upgrades to Manchester Road railway station.

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