2. Borough Profile and Key Issues
BURNLEY YESTERDAY, TODAY AND IN 2020?
To successfully get where we want to go will involve many people in a lot of hard work, but as a starting point we need to know:
- where we are now;
- how we have got to where we are; and
- what forces are likely to influence the development of the Borough in the future.
A product of the industrial revolution…
Burnley, as a Borough, would not be the size of town or look like it does today without the Industrial Revolution. Two hundred years ago, in 1801, the population of what became the old county Borough stood at just over 3,900. The Industrial Revolution’s development of textile mills,associated industries and housing resulted in a phenomenal growth in the town’s population. Between 1801 and 1891, the town’s population virtually doubled every twenty years. There is no other word for it, Burnley was a ‘Boomtown’. To give some idea of the scale of this growth in the modern day, the Borough’s population has remained relatively stable around the 90,000 mark for the last twenty years.
What did all this mean in terms of land and why is it still important today? Firstly, it meant that the town itself rapidly expanded in size along the Brun and Calder valleys and beside the Leeds – Liverpool Canal, completed in the 1790s. By 1900, the result was the core of the towns of Burnley and Padiham that we see today – buildings of local stone, on a grid street pattern, high density terraced housing, often close by mills and factories, with a small number of formal Victorian and Edwardian parks. All surrounded by our striking and familiar local countryside. These features of Burnley’s built and natural heritage remain key features of what makes Burnley the distinctive town it is today. Protection and enhancement of the Borough’s key environmental assets and utilising their potential for urban and rural regeneration is our first key issue for the Burnley Local Plan.
Like most things, this historical legacy has its good side and its bad side. Today, the distinctive local buildings and materials that are part of our heritage and what makes Burnley special, can also conjure up an image of cloth caps and mill chimneys that acts as a stigma.
Similarly, on the one hand, the higher densities and mix of uses which can be found in Burnley and Padiham’s older, inner areas can be seen as a form of sustainable development that minimises use of land, allows people to walk to work, schools and shops: a form of development that national planning policy is seeking to achieve in the future. On the other hand, these areas can be seen as areas without private gardens, nowhere to park the car or for children to play, with a factory that may be a source of local nuisance, and a corner shop that closed years ago and is now boarded up – taken as a whole an area not suitable for 21st Century living. The opportunity of a decent home for all and a quality living space around is identified as our second key issue.
… Economic re-structuring, development of the suburbs, and urban
The power of image is probably best conveyed by the fact that even locally we probably do not think of Burnley as anything but an industrial town with terraced housing. Yet such perceptions belie the truth of how the town has developed from the 1930s, but particularly in the post-war years, and especially since the 1960s.
Employment in Burnley reached a post-war high of 53,600 in 1952, since then, with some short-lived periods of growth, employment has fallen to 35,500 in 2000, more than a third of all jobs were lost in less than 50 years. This economic decline has had as profound an effect on the town as the Industrial Revolution that produced it, and, in part, explains the decline and eventual stabilisation of the town’s population, and many of our existing social, economic and environmental problems.
The fall in the overall number of jobs in the town is part of a long-term global trend affecting the local economy. Manufacturing employment has declined, almost without interruption, as a proportion of jobs in the Borough since the 1920s. In 1929, manufacturing made up 74% of the Borough’s jobs, services almost 14%. By 2000, manufacturing jobs made up 32% of the Borough’s jobs, services 65%. But at a third of the town’s jobs, manufacturing remains a key aspect of the local economy. Nationally only 15% of jobs, and regionally 21% are in this sector. Securing growth and diversification in the local economy is our next key issue.
The decline and re-structuring of the local economy are nothing short of another industrial revolution with massive economic, social and environmental impacts, and, importantly for this document, impacts in terms of land use. As the older industries the Borough once relied upon have closed, they have left behind vacant mills and factories. Some of these have been re-used for the new service uses such as Lodge House, for offices, and the Prestige, for shopping. Others have been swept away by demolition and redeveloped – others remain vacant and derelict. At the same time as this massive upheaval in our older, inner urban area has taken place, the post–war economic re-structuring has seen the development of a number of peripheral industrial estates away from housing, and the town centre on the edge of town, Heasandford, Rossendale Road, Network 65 and Shuttleworth Mead.
This continued spread of development around the fringes of the 19th Century core of the town has also seen the development of many peripheral housing estates. Most of these have been on once open land, what is called ‘greenfield’ development. Since 1991, about 120 hectares of land have been developed for housing on peripheral, ‘greenfield’ estates. All of this has a number of implications for planning and sustainable development. The mix of development produced in the 19th Century and its inherent sustainability have already been commented upon. Late 20th Century development has been about large single use estates whether for employment or housing. The two often do not relate well to each other, lead to more and longer journeys by car and less opportunity to walk, cycle or catch the bus to work. Nor do they have the finer grain mix of older areas of town with their shops, post offices, pubs, play spaces, libraries, and so on which allow for a greater vitality of life at different times of the day. Securing more sustainable forms of development – re-using buildings, mixing uses, minimising car journeys – is our next key issue.
This outward growth of the town from centre to periphery, often of large areas of single land uses has major implications for how Burnley works as a town and how we view our surroundings and each other. In the jargon of public policy, this is referred to as social inclusion, or exclusion, or more recently community cohesion. The latter, in particular, has been thrown in to sharper focus in Burnley because of the disturbances of 2001. The flight to the periphery of jobs and houses, and the relative decline in the inner areas for which planning must accept some responsibility has had major implications for the working of Burnley as a town. Peripheral development has not only allowed those who can, whether it be a householder or a factory owner, the chance to escape, ithas left behind the worse off. This dispersal of jobs, shops and other services raises the greatest problems of access for those least able to reach them, those who have mobility problems, whether that be a physical disability, lack of a nearby public transport route, or access to a car. Bringing about more socially inclusive development that can help create a more cohesive community will be a key issue for the Burnley Local Plan.
Design of buildings and the spaces around them can be very subjective. Just take one recent example: for some, the new bus station is a striking example of contemporary architecture with a quality urban space acting as a gateway to and from the town, others have criticised the design. Whatever the merits of these arguments, the bus station is a high quality development. Unfortunately, in recent years there have been many examples where this has not been so, to make sure this is not the case in the future securing high quality and good design in all new development will be a key issue for the Burnley Local Plan.
The Borough’s two town centres remain key focal points. Unlike other towns, planning policy has resisted the worst excesses of out of centre retail and leisure development. Our two town centres remain the key locations for jobs, retail, service and leisure uses. However, the fortunes of Burnley and Padiham town centres have been very different. Burnley has performed relatively well and remains a key centre in the regional hierarchy. Padiham has suffered the fate of many smaller towns – not big enough to compete with larger rivals and without a strong independent function as, say, a tourist destination – the town has suffered a relative decline in shops and service uses. The key issue for the Burnley Plan for both centres is to improve the role and function of Burnley and Padiham town centres.
Whilst Burnley is a relatively buoyant town centre all is not well in our urban areas. The flight to the suburbs of housing and employment has had, perhaps unwittingly, a massive impact on the older core of the town. Burnley town centre is surrounded by a ring of decline, characterised by derelict and under-used mills, declining terraced housing areas with vacant property, dwindling populations with social and economic problems and a deteriorating environment. Elsewhere this has been labelled the ‘doughnut effect’: growth on the periphery leads to decline around the edges of the centre, in extreme cases it can lead to decline of the centre itself. Government policy has, in recent years, seen a seachange in thinking about such planning issues: urban regeneration toreinvigorate towns like Burnley, and stem the inevitable encroachment on to greenfield land at the urban edge, is the order of the day. Burnley, a nineteenth century ‘boom town’, will, in our view, be a key test for everyone – politicians, planners, developers, business, and local communities - in delivering urban regeneration away from the regional centres of Manchester and Liverpool. Urban and rural regeneration is our next key issue.
We are not an island. Whatever happens to Burnley will be very much influenced by what happens in the wider world. Often these will be forces beyond our control. Where we can have a greater say is in developing the town’s role within the regional and sub-regional context. Despite all the changes outlined above Burnley remains a key town in the North West and Lancashire. Along with Blackburn it is one of the two key centres in East Lancashire. But, arguably, Burnley no longer has the standing that went with the status as a major centre of textile production. If Burnley is to remain a key centre in the North West then in twenty years time for what will it be famous? Why will people live here, work here, and visit? Our strategy seeks to map out that future. Our final key issue is to retain and enhance Burnley’s position as a key town, regionally, in the North West, and more locally in East Lancashire.
…the challenge ahead…
The challenge ahead is to address our nine key issues:
- More sustainable forms development;
- Better quality design and development;
- Increased social inclusion and community cohesion;
- Growth and diversification in the local economy;
- Better quality housing and living spaces around them;
- Urban and rural regeneration;
- Improved roles and functions of Burnley and Padiham town centres;
- Protection and enhancement of the Borough’s key environmental assets;
- To retain and enhance Burnley’s position as a key town, regionally, in the North West, and more locally, in East Lancashire.