Blackburn with Darwen is a vibrant place with strong communities, leadership, vision and ambition. For us, the concept of place shaping is nothing new, and we have always worked in partnership with the public and private sectors.
Collaborating, communicating and innovating are business as usual. Our place-based partnerships for health and social care date back to 2010. July 2016 saw the launch of a new-style partnership with Capita – the first of its kind in the north of the UK – to deliver a blend of highways- and property-related technical services and business cases that will deliver savings, income and growth.
The partnership will ultimately create new opportunities around the development of land, local assets, and skills that generate income and transform Blackburn and Darwen. The renewed partnership has a new focus – with flexibility to meet our changing needs now and in the future. Supporting this work is a new place brand and place marketing strategy, launched by the Local Strategic Partnership. This aims to raise the profile and reputation of Blackburn with Darwen as an innovative, well-connected and forward-looking place to do business. During these challenging financial times, we have continued to invest in our place.
Over the past six years, the Council and partners have invested more than £400 million in transforming Blackburn town centre and retail offer, improving highways and transport connections, building new leisure centres in both towns and developing Blackburn’s FE and HE college campus.
Last year, we completed the first phase of our innovative, £30m Cathedral Quarter project with new Grade A offices providing 35,000 square feet of floor space, the opening of a Premier Inn in the heart of Blackburn and new public realm around Lancashire’s cathedral. This also features the first cathedral cloisters to be built in this country in more than 600 years.
The opening of a flagship bus station in Blackburn was the climax of our £40million Pennine Reach programme, creating a rapid bus transit system along the Accrington-Blackburn-Darwen corridor, and this year, we’ll open the Making Rooms, which will host Lancashire’s first FabLab featuring 3D printers and micro manufacturing machinery. This state of the art manufacturing and technology hub – one of only two projects of its type in the UK – will put Blackburn on the map as a place for start-up businesses and manufacturing innovation.
Our Local Strategic Partnership has committed to delivering a series of targets around business and housing growth by 2020 through its Plan for Prosperity, including 3,250 new homes, 100,000 sq m of new commercial floor space, and as many as 2,700 new jobs. This growth will generate £13.5m of additional, recurrent income for the Council by 2026, helping us to become financially sustainable and protect essential local services.
Recognising the new focus upon place, our strategic partnership with Capita is getting us ready to compete regionally and nationally, showcase place-based innovation, take a key role in the Northern Powerhouse, and bring growth and prosperity to Blackburn and Darwen, and the wider region.
This article first appeared in a New Local Government Network (NLGN) essay collection on ‘unlocking the power of local reflections on the new place based leadership’ in November 2016. Download the full NLGN essay collection.