This year, Place North West’s summer series has focused on forward-looking pieces on home towns: how home towns have shaped people in property, and what they would do as property professionals to improve the places where they grew up. What would make Bolton boom? How could Preston move to the next stage?
Christine Winstanley, MD of Eric Wright Health and Care takes a look at her home town of Padiham and details how she would improve it.
Padiham, near Burnley, is probably best described as a traditional Lancashire town. Its commercial glory days might be long gone but it still boasts some beautiful historic building in a stunning location and has a fantastically passionate local community.
Like so many of its close neighbours its town centre now tells a rather depressing and sadly all too familiar tale of empty retail units and endless charity shops.
However, I truly believe that here is hope for such ailing provincial towns. That hope lies in the will of the community to deliver change and the public sector’s ability to reinvent itself and become a disruptor in its own right.
50 towns across the UK have recently been shortlisted for the Government’s high street fund, where applications can be made for grants to look at ways in which the local authorities can improve their communities.
Although this fund has now closed, places like Padiham could do worse than to look at what local authorities are doing in these towns and adapt those learnings to improve their own position.
I strongly believe that the communities themselves need to galvanise, harness power and set up organisations for change in order to make a difference.
In the neighbouring village of Trawden, near Colne the community centre and shop were previously owned by Lancashire County Council. The shop, which was formerly a library, was rarely used and only served a very small part of the community. The centre lay closed for weeks at a time as the village had no influence over, or ownership of the building.
In August 2018 the building was gifted as a community asset transfer, a process which enables the transfer of a publicly owned asset (usually land or buildings) to a community organisation at less than market value, or at no cost at all.
The Trawden Forest Community Centre is now also a thriving community venue providing meeting space to provide much needed support and services for the elderly, parents, children and adults. The shop has re-energised the community spirit of Trawden and provides a meeting point for family, friends and community groups whilst delivering family history tuition, digital access, and space for people to purchase their groceries, household products, and beer and wine. The produce sold is from local butchers and bakers as well as individuals who sell their homegrown fruit and vegetables. As a regular visitor I can tell you, it’s amazing – I feel so privileged and proud of what the community has achieved for its residents.
I think there are many places in such towns which lend themselves to this type of asset ownership and it could be something that Councils think about when they are looking at their property holdings and how they can regenerate town centres.
One Partnership, a joint venture company between Eric Wright Group and Community Health Partnerships, has been commissioned as the lead organisation to carry out the local asset reviews across Lancashire and South Cumbria. This review will identify opportunities for health and social care services to be delivered in new and alternative locations to enable better integration across the public sector. This could even mean services moving into a town centre environment to support the high street – why not take a shop and provide NHS services right next to Costa and Debenhams?
The public sector has to re-invent itself and become an innovative disruptor before we will see town centres like Padiham really start to thrive once again.