Historic England are playing a key role to ensure the “stunning legacy” of Accrington’s past is preserved in future regeneration plans
Last year’s Historic Places Panel visit saw engagement with local stakeholders to detail the many transformative opportunities that investment into the borough could offer.
As the Panel discovered more about Accrington, its history and communities, the visitors were immediately struck by town’s “remarkable beauty” and wonderful collection of buildings, both within the centre and outlying zones.
Invaluable feedback from the panel has been taken on board, and excitement is now growing ahead of a scheduled follow-up visit in April. A Culture & Heritage Investment Board has also been established to shape future plans and prepare further funding bids.
A Hyndburn Borough Council team including CEO David Welsby, council leader Miles Parkinson OBE, MP Sara Britcliffe and Cllrs Marlene Haworth and Munsif Dad BEM, warmly welcomed the panel to the town.
They identified three key issues to address: making the town centre more vibrant and sustainable; boosting its connectivity to residential areas and local cultural offers such as parks and museums; and utilising shared cultural heritage to boost cross-community engagement with the town centre, helping restore a sense of community, belonging and local pride in place.
Among its conclusions, the Historic Places Panel acknowledged that the ambitions and optimism of bringing in up to £100m in investment were high. They added “the prospect of unprecedented investment has already got people talking to each other, and now brings with it the opportunity for a further step-change to join together and connect the dots.” They also advised that high street heritage programmes prove more can be achieved when physical works are undertaken in tandem with cultural activity.
Hyndburn Borough Council has targeted the use of culture and arts as drivers, commissioning a Cultural Strategy and piloting new events such as a hugely popular light installation at Aspen Colliery coke ovens. As part of its economic growth strategy and to help drive footfall, the Council has also applied for £29.6m from Homes England’s Infrastructure Fund for more than 1,800 homes at Huncoat Garden Village.
The Culture & Heritage Investment Board includes representatives from organisations such as Creative Lancashire, and is chaired by Hyndburn Leisure’s CEO Lyndsey Sims. Last month it was announced the board had helped deliver nearly £3m from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, with arts and culture and an Arndale Centre masterplan high on the agenda. There are plans to welcome the Historic Places Panel back to Hyndburn in the coming months to discuss future plans further.
[Historic Places Panel at Accrington Town Hall]
Charles Smith, Historic England’s Head of Region North and Investment said:
“Accrington has a proud history. Working closely with the Council, businesses and local people, we can use the town’s remarkable heritage to attract the investment needed to ensure that it has a promising future too. We’re looking forward to seeing more of Accrington in April, when we plan to view local mosques in addition to the Victorian arcades, municipal and industrial heritage we saw during our previous visit.”
Cllr Miles Parkinson OBE, Leader of Hyndburn Council, said:
“We are greatly looking forward to welcoming the Historic Places Panel back to Accrington to see how our plans have developed since we last met. Historic England’s expertise and insight are key components in the overall push to ensure the borough’s future regeneration not only respects, but enhances, our rich and varied cultural heritage. We are really grateful for their time, expertise and guidance as we embark on this transformation which will start with our historic Accrington Town Square and then be seen across the borough.”
Transformative improvements to the Market Hall, Market Chambers and Burton’s Chambers can also now go forward thanks to £20m from the Government’s Levelling Up fund.