£20m LUF win for Blackburn paves way for M65 improvements

Published Thursday 19 January 2023 at 10:04

Blackburn with Darwen Council has secured £20m of Levelling Up funding – bolstering its ambitious £1bn growth plans for the borough.

The money will be used to improve Junction 5 of the M65 and transport links in the area around Haslingden Road – significantly improving employment, housing, health and carbon reduction outcomes for residents and businesses.

It’s part of the Council’s impressive Blackburn Growth Axis – one of its six strategic plans for growth – which has the potential make the area one of the most important economic centres in the North.

Councillor Phil Riley, Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said:

This is great news for the borough.

As a Council, we are carving out a really strong reputation for the borough as a place to invest and do business and this level of funding will support us in delivering our £1bn vision for the future by ensuring we have the right infrastructure in place.

We will not let Blackburn with Darwen be left behind – we are determined to see it prosper and for that, growth has to be our key priority.

The successful bid included proposals to improve the Haslingden Road corridor and Junction 5 of the M65 – a strategic location of regional significance – to improve traffic flows, reduce congestion levels and deliver significant carbon reductions outcomes with related health benefits for residents and local communities.

Plans for six new and upgraded walking and cycling routes – over 11 miles of new and active travel networks – will improve local resident and community access to new employment opportunities created in the area.

The Council and private sector will also be investing .to establish a comprehensive investment programme valued at around £30m, which will be delivered over the next five years.

The plans are also central to delivering the Council’s ambitious, long-term growth strategy which links to new major opportunities at Samlesbury Enterprise Zone – including the planned relocation of the Government’s new National Cyber Force HQ.

Cllr Riley added:

When we look at our growth performance over the last decade, Blackburn with Darwen is already starting to close the economic gaps against national benchmarks.

We are out performing our regional comparators in terms of the economic value of what we generate, the jobs we are creating and the new homes we are providing.

The Levelling-Up Fund and the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, alongside the already secured Darwen Town Deal, will bring impressive change, unlocking significant growth opportunities.

Above all else, it will help us improve lives – and that’s what really matters.

The Growth and Development Team at Blackburn with Darwen Council also helped secure the full £25m of Government Town Deal funding available for Darwen.

With Council and private investment, it’ll see £100m ploughed in to the town in the next five years with transformational plans for the town centre, business growth and skills.

There’s also £5.9m of UK Shared Prosperity funding – which could be worth a further £20m with co-investment from the Council’s delivery partners.

And, in recent months, there’s been a £2m boost for the borough’s arts, culture and creative industries too with Arts Council England naming Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery, the National Festival of Making, British Textile Biennial and Culturapedia as prestigious National Portfolio Organisations.

Sadly, its second LUF bid – for £20m of funding to support a brand new £60m skills and education campus of national significance in Blackburn Town Centre – was not successful.

Councillor Riley added:

We worked extremely hard to develop compelling bids to put us in the best possible position to secure the Levelling-Up funding.

The plans for the skills and education campus are part of our £250m Blackburn Town Centre Masterplan for the former Thwaites site and the surrounding area.

The bid demonstrated how it could be truly transformational – part of what could be the largest town centre regeneration of its type in the whole region.

It’s disappointing that it wasn’t successful given the impact it could have – it would have been a fine example of true levelling up – but we won’t be deterred.

We are already starting to explore with locally committed investors how best to bring this phase of development forward.

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