Published Monday 7 September 2015 at 15:16
This year will be one of the biggest and most important in Blackburn with Darwen’s history thanks to a series of innovative projects that will strengthen the borough’s position in the North West, says Tom Flanagan, the Council’s Executive Director Place.
The recent launch of the new Blackburn Sports and Leisure Centre, the imminent completion of the Cathedral Quarter development and new plans to create a Fab Lab 3D printing hub are among the developments that are transforming Blackburn town centre and opening up new employment and tourism opportunities for the borough.
“We are just 30 minutes from Manchester and less than an hour from Liverpool and have a great value offer for businesses already located here and those looking for new sites, from our skilled workforce and balanced housing offer to the land and property we are making available for investment or expansion opportunities.
This autumn will see the completion of phase 1 of Blackburn’s Cathedral Quarter. Alongside a 60 bed Premier Inn hotel and a residential scheme for the Cathedral’s Clergy, will be 30,000 square feet of Grade A office space. Offering a perfect location for the borough’s indigenous businesses or new inward investment, the quality of office space which will be available to let later this year meets or exceeds any other floor space currently available within the region.
The Council has ambitious plans to realise phase 2 of the Cathedral Quarter development which could comprise a further 50,000 square feet of new office space. Additional opportunities include new sites for development around the borough’s improved transport infrastructure, with additional sites to become available at Freckleton Street following the completion of the link road in 2016.
Businesses are fast catching on to the opportunities the borough has to offer. Blackburn features in a top 10 list of UK towns and cities with the highest private sector jobs growth and has risen nine places in the same index for the number of new business starts. In the borough’s most recent annual business survey, 94% said their business was doing well, more than three-quarters of businesses had taken on additional staff in 2014 and 79% of businesses expect to grow sales in 2015.
“Our aim is to improve the employment prospects of residents and ensure that businesses’ skills needs are met. We have a thriving business base in the form of a Hive network and through this we see the private sector and education forming a strong partnership to ensure our young people stay, work and innovate in the borough.
“Part of this is to make sure that the workforce of the future is aware of the fantastic employment opportunities which are available locally. With this and other challenges in mind, the Council and its partners are to embark on a programme of activity to improve the internal and external perception of Blackburn with Darwen as a place to live, work, visit and invest.”