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New board for Darwen is the ‘real deal’

Published Tuesday 7 January 2020 at 14:22

A new board is set to be created to help shape plans for how up to £25m of funding could be spent transforming Darwen.

Wayne Wild, Group Commercial Director of WEC Group, one of the town’s biggest employers, has been invited to chair the new ‘Darwen Deal Board’ made up of business and community leaders.

Other members include Darwen adidas designer and global brand consultant, Gary Aspden, Chair of Darwen Town Centre Partnership, John Sturgess, and founder of Keep Darwen Tidy, Janet Pearce, amongst others.

Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council has been tasked with creating the board, which will work with residents to draw up an ‘investment plan’ to be presented to Government in summer.

Early suggestions include re-developing the town centre and Market Hall, investing in new employment and skills opportunities and improving local parks and ‘cultural icons’ such as Darwen Tower.

Councillor Phil Riley, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council’s Executive Member for Growth and Development, will act as Vice Chair.

He said:

Darwen has been a focus for major Council investment in recent years with a range of new facilities and services created, including the new Market Square.

This new Town Deal funding could build on that and unlock new regeneration opportunities. The Darwen Deal Board will be the driving force behind the proposals we submit to Government.

It’s still early days and we’re awaiting more details on the criteria for applying for the funding, but this is a very strong board which is made up of people who have the skills and expertise to produce a strong investment plan for the town.

Darwen is one of 101 towns across the country invited to apply for £3.6 billion of Government funding.

The new Towns Fund is earmarked for regeneration, skills and enterprise infrastructure and improving connectivity.

Mr Wild, who is known for being one the transformational business leaders behind the high-performing Darwen-based engineering company as well as a former chairman of AFC Darwen, said:

This is a fantastic opportunity to make a real difference to the town.

The board will represent the people of Darwen and local businesses with a primary focus to work hard with the Council and the town’s MP to get the very best deal we can.

We will listen closely to our residents’ and businesses views on how they believe the funding could best be spent ensuring that those views are at the very heart of all our decisions.

A report due before the Council’s Executive Board on Thursday (January 9) outlines how membership of the board could change over time to ensure the best skill set.

Board members:

Wayne Wild – Group Commercial Director of WEC Group Ltd (Chair of Darwen Deal Board)

Councillor Phil Riley – Blackburn with Darwen Council’s Executive Member for Growth and Development (Vice Chair)

Councillor John East – Leader of Darwen Town Council

John Sturgess – Chair of Darwen Town Centre Partnership

Gary Aspden – Darwen resident and global brand and design consultant for adidas

Miranda Barker – Chief Executive of East Lancs Chamber and Lancashire Enterprise Partnership Board Director

John Wilkinson – Regional Director of Suez Recycling and Recovery UK

Janet Pearce – Chair of Keep Darwen Tidy

Glenda Brindle – Chair of Aldridge Academy

Dr Fazal Dad – Principal at Blackburn College

Steve Waggot – Chief Executive of Blackburn Rovers

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