Burnley’s university town ambitions take another major step forward

Plans for Newtown Mill

Burnley’s bid to become a university town has taken another major step forward with the acquisition of the vacant Newtown Mill, for an undisclosed sum, by the town council.

The mill, situated on the edge of the town centre, will enable the next step of the University of Lancashire’s (UCLan) ambitious expansion plans for Burnley to go ahead.

The off market acquisition will be funded through the Government’s Levelling Up programme.

Burnley Council received £19.9m in Levelling Up investment to bring this scheme forward, as well as other key projects.

This deal will enable the council and UCLan to press ahead with redevelopment plans to create a canalside campus in the historic Weavers’ Triangle area.

It follows the expansion of UCLan into the nearby Sandygate Mill last year, accommodating a new campus library and student union space.

Work at the former mill, in Queen’s Lancashire Way, will create around 35,000 sq ft of space to accommodate teaching facilities and a business/enterprise zone, as well as creating new public spaces together with public realm improvements to Sandygate.

The site will provide a modern teaching building with inspirational heritage features, high quality teaching rooms, student social space and a business and public engagement area.

The scheme will be delivered through the council’s joint venture with Barnfield. Day Architecture has been appointed to draw up plans for the building and a planning application will be submitted next month.

Council leader, Cllr Afrasiab Anwar, said: “The council developed and approved its Town Centre & Canalside Masterplan in 2018 and the expansion of UCLan was a key part of the masterplan. This enabled the council to secure the Levelling Up Fund Grant and the development of Newtown Mill for UCLan’s growing campus is another example of the council delivering its masterplan.”

Cllr Asif Raja, the council’s executive member for economy and growth, said: “UCLan is an emerging institution within the town, and through this unique opportunity provided by the Levelling Up Fund it can take its campus presence to the next stage, raising the aspirations of the borough’s young people and firmly establishing Burnley as a university town.

“The acquisition of the former Newtown Mill is great news and takes us another step closer to bringing this exciting project to fruition utilising an iconic building on a key gateway to the town.”

Prof Graham Baldwin, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), said: “This is another pivotal and exciting development in our ongoing plans to raise young people’s aspirations in the area, respond to local employers’ skills needs and support the regeneration of Burnley.

“We are grateful for the support from the Levelling-Up Fund and the backing from key partners including Burnley Council, Antony Higginbotham MP and Burnley Bondholders.”

He added: “Together with Sandygate Halls, our first student halls of residence, Burnley is rapidly establishing itself as an attractive canal-side campus. It will mark another key milestone in the drive to transform Burnley into a university town and part of UCLan’s ambitious plans to increase student numbers to 4,000.

“We continue to grow our course portfolio to meet the existing and emerging skills’ needs of Burnley and East Lancashire, developing the next generation of key workers in areas such as medicine, health, nursing, policing and social work.”

Tim Webber, chairman of Barnfield Developments, said “We’re really excited to be working on this scheme, which will be a great addition to the work that we have already completed, in partnership with the council, in the Sandygate area.”

The design team for the scheme includes: DAY architecture, DAY project management, Ridge, Daniel Connolly Planning and TPM Landscape.