Town on the fringe could end up be­ing cen­tre of at­ten­tion

Rossendale Free Press - - News -

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

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