Published Friday 17 December 2021 at 13:44
The Darwen Town Deal Board is celebrating after the Government confirmed it’s officially signed off on £25m of funding for the town – the maximum amount available.
The £25m will benefit from further investment from Blackburn with Darwen Council alongside private investment, resulting in a £90 million Town Deal boost for the town over the next five years.
Now that the Deal has been confirmed, the next task is for Board members – all volunteers with connections to the town and many experts in their own field – to start to develop and assess the businesses cases needed for each of the projects included in the delivery plan agreed with Government.
This is likely to occupy much of 2022, but it is an essential and required piece of work.
- Town Centre – This includes projects to refurbish and repurpose Darwen’s important heritage buildings, including the Market Hall and The Library Theatre, and improve the settings of their buildings and their connections within the centre. This will also include new residential development, new retail space, new cultural, learning and community opportunities, and new landscaping and environmental improvements.
- Employment Growth and Business Innovation – a range of exciting projects which build on Darwen’s proud and still strong manufacturing heritage. These will provide modern business premises to support the creation of new jobs for both existing and new businesses. The new Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, which is part of Sheffield University, is a real coup for Darwen and will extend the town’s research and development capacity in new composite technologies and play an important role in regional business growth. Finally, the relocation and retention of Perspex International to a new site in Darwen, safeguarding jobs and building a new production centre that will support their global operations.
- Destination Darwen – the town’s fantastic setting as a gateway to the West Pennine Moors came through very strongly in the public consultation as something local people wanted to cherish and improve. Proposals to create new and improved connections linking the Town Centre, residential neighbourhoods, parks and the Moors are being developed into detailed plans. These trails will encourage more active travel – particularly walking and cycling – and outdoor exercise options for residents as well as encouraging new visitors, boosting the local economy.
- Connected Darwen – this proposal will bring ultrafast broadband to over 10,000 homes and businesses in Darwen with free Wi-Fi for town centre users and low income households.
- East Lancashire Sports Village – this initiative will be spearheaded by new sporting facilities at Darwen Cricket Club, AFC Darwen and J4 Skatepark, with the latter capable of hosting national and international events, and providing training facilities for our Olympic stars of the future which are accessible to all.
Chair of the Darwen Town Deal Board, Wayne Wild said: “This really is a fantastic way to be ending the year! The Board were absolutely determined to secure as much of the £25m as possible and we were ecstatic to be awarded the full amount.
“We’ve said from the very beginning that this was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the town and it does feel like we’re at the start of something really exciting.
“Our bid was all about focusing on what can help make a real difference for the future of Darwen and for its residents and we’re really looking forward to building on that in the early New Year.”
The Government set out a strict criteria for how the Town Deal funding could be spent with an emphasis on creating jobs, supporting the town centre, boosting businesses and connecting people to where they live and work through infrastructure and digital opportunities.
Wayne added: “While a huge amount of work went into developing the successful bid, we know that this is very much just the start and that there’s a lot of hard work ahead of us as part of this five-year project.
“I find it fitting that the wording on the Darwen coat of arms is ‘Abque Labore Nihil’ – ‘nothing without labour!’
“Our priority now is developing really strong business cases for each of the projects – working with residents, the Council, businesses and partners to make sure we’re making the very most of the opportunities we have available to us as part of the Town Deal.
“We will be sharing more details on key proposals and engaging with residents, businesses and other stakeholders over the coming months. We want what we do to have a real impact not just for now, but for future generations to come – the Board is driven by making a difference.”
Cllr Phil Riley, Executive Member for Growth and Development, added: “This is clearly good news for both Darwen and the Borough. It’s great to receive Government approval for this collection of schemes and now more work will be needed to build up the business cases to bring the projects forward.”
Jake Berry, MP for Darwen and Rossendale, said:
“This incredible investment shows huge backing for our town by providing £25million in Town Deal funding.
“It is probably the single largest public investment in Darwen’s history – an investment that will have a substantial impact on our town’s future.
“The next steps are to get on and deliver the projects that will create hundreds of new jobs, attract millions of new visitors and ensure we continue to deliver the Government’s Levelling Up agenda.
“I am delighted to see evidence of Town Deal funding already making a difference to Darwen through the ongoing renovation works at Darwen Tower.
“I’m proud to be part of the Board, where we have some of the very best people volunteering their time to help ensure we get it right for Darwen.
“There is much more to come and presents a really exciting future and opportunities for Darwen.”
You can read more about the Darwen Town Deal, the board and the latest news at: www.darwentowndeal.co.uk.