Town on the fringe could end up being centre of attention
COULD £500m of private sector investment land in Rossendale over the next 15 years?
Rossendale Council certainly hopes so.
This week, councillors got a first look at the council’s investment strategy which aims to turn the fact Rossendale is on the fringe of Lancashire, and the first council outside Greater Manchester into a great advantage.
Compared to other strategies, such as the controversial Local Plan which the council is trying to sort out in the face of widespread opposition to new house building - a government requirement of the council - anywhere, this plan should be quite popular.
The strategy, which sets a goal of what the area will achieve by 2033, includes attracting £200m of public sector investment and projects which will bring 1,600 new jobs to the area, of which 800 are in sectors of industry seen as being important for the future.
The council hopes this will result in income levels rising within Rossendale, which in turn helps drive the local economy because people have more money to spend.
The council also hopes to address some of its own financial issues by getting more under-developed sites into use for new businesses, thus generating more business rates for the council.
The question, of course, is how likely it is to happen, and how real the differences will be to the average person in Rossendale.
Every council in the country will have an investment strategy like this, and competition for inward investment is incredibly tough.
The document points to the fact that around £14m of private investment has been attracted to the New Hall Hey developments, and to the Spinning Point development in Rawtenstall town centre.
The latter has relied on significant funding from the public purse too.
To have any chance of success, Rossendale needs better transport links both out into Lancashire and in from Manchester.
Indeed, the links are so important that they form part of the investment strategy.
The challenge for Rossendale Council is to get money to improve the M66, or create a new rail link into Rawtenstall, prioritised over the many other schemes presented to the various organisations which hold the purse strings on transport investment.
In reality, that’ll mean proving a case over other areas of Lancashire at County Hall, and getting agreement from councils in Greater Manchester to prioritise Rossendale’s projects.
It’s not the only challenge.
The council’s investment strategy says that ‘Bacup is reputedly the best preserved cotton town in England’ yet the town remains on English Heritage’s ‘at risk’ register which documents historic areas struggling with neglect, decay or inappropriate development.
And, of course, Rossendale Council will need to convince local people that the developments which bring investment in are good news.
The public jury remains out on Spinning Point, for example, and certainly if each development takes as long to get off the ground as Spinning Point, and is so reliant on public funding, the vision will struggle to be met.
That’s the challenge Rossendale Council will face for as long as transport links around here are so poor.
Overall, it’s a tall ask, but an important one all the same.
And at least there’s an ambitious plan which those who make the decision on what is spent, and where, will have to justify saying no to if they aren’t prepared to help.
●● Work underway at the The Spinning Point development in Rawtenstall