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Project Great Harwood: Turning the town into a Lancashire destination

The aim is to turn Great Harwood into a town that rivals, or betters, Clitheroe, Whalley and Skipton as a place for people to visit

June 27 2024, 11.30am

Great Harwood: Great Town, Great People.

That’s the slogan Great Harwood’s newly formed Town Panel is pushing following two successful bids by Hyndburn Council totalling £737,000 of government funding.

The town, which sits between Blackburn, Burnley and Accrington and is part of Hyndburn, was awarded £237,000 in December following a bid by the local authority to the government’s High Street Accelerators Pilot Programme, with the money earmarked for greening projects and revitalising the high street.

A stakeholder board, Great Harwood Town Panel, was then established, with members, which include local councillors, representatives from local business and community organisations, agreeing a plan to bid for an additional £500,000 funding from the same scheme.

In May, it was announced that the £500,000 bid had also been successful, with the Town Panel now working in partnership with Hyndburn Council to develop and deliver a long-term vision to regenerate parts of Queen Street, Church Street, and Blackburn Road.

Part of that vision includes attracting people to Great Harwood, improving the sense of community in the town, and transforming the area into a “destination” - a thriving Royal Charter market town - rather than just a place people pass through on their way to somewhere else.

Speaking to The Hyndburn Lead, Peter Holden, a Great Harwood resident of more than 30 years, chair of the town’s Civic Society, and independent chair of the Town Panel said: “The £237,000 was really to get us started on a longer term aim and vision for Great Harwood.

“It’s money that is being spent this financial year to get us going for the future - what we want to achieve and how we will go about it.

“Hyndburn Council were instrumental in bidding for that funding for us and there’s been a lot of work going on in the background to help us secure that money, we’ve been very lucky.

“The additional £500,000, because there’s a general election coming up, has been put on hold. We are still getting it, but not right now. Hopefully when the election is over with, we can access that money and move forward with our plans.


Great Harwood


“After Great Harwood was awarded the initial funds last year for improving its green spaces, a group of us got together to try and identify the areas of the town where the money could be best used.

“We looked at land owned by the council with a view to repurposing it and turning the spaces into somewhere people can sit and enjoy.

“We want people to stay in the town and experience all Great Harwood has to offer rather than just passing through.”

Queen Street, Blackburn Road and Church Street are Great Harwood’s central shopping high streets – home to most of the town’s businesses as well as a number of important community institutions, and are the areas where most of the funding is to be spent first.

Money will be used to spruce up the green spaces, planting flowers and making the area more attractive for visitors.

But Great Harwood has more to offer than just its high streets, with walking routes and public rights of way taking people from Blackburn Old Road across to Dean Clough Reservoir; Memorial Park which holds the town’s war memorial; and the Showground which boasts the town’s annual agricultural fair.

Tessa Clemson, who owns a yoga studio just off Church Street, and is also a member of the Town Panel, said the group is aiming to catapult Great Harwood into a destination town, similar to, if not better than, the likes of Clitheroe, Whalley, Skipton, and Hebden Bridge.

She said: “As a town panel we are trying to create a vision of what we want Great Harwood to be - a hub of independent shops and businesses - which it already has plenty of, but we want the town to be much bigger and better.

“There’s £20 million being ploughed into Accrington to revamp the town centre there, and that’s money that’s also come from the government, but the funding we have been awarded is for us, for our town, to help improve the visual appearance of our high street.

“We’ve asked our customers, our clients, our friends, and those in the community for their ideas, and have then fed those back to the wider town panel.

“We want to encourage new businesses to our high streets and continue supporting existing ones, as well as highlighting the heritage of the town too.

“Part of Great Harwood is a conservation area and we have historic buildings here such as Mercer Hall, and people are always pleasantly surprised when they come to Great Harwood too, as there’s lots of things going on and so many different places to visit, but we need more people to know about and be aware of these things.

“For example there’s Memorial Park off Cliffe Lane; there’s the reservoir and the public rights of way - you can walk right over the tops and get to Whalley which takes less than an hour; there’s Martholme Viaduct; the list goes on.”

Clemson said the Town Panel is using the government funding as a mechanism to attract people and business to the area, while simultaneously ensuring residents of the town enjoy the space in which they are living.

She continued: “We have to first make it nice for the residents with simple changes which can really improve the sense of community and pride.


Great Harwood


“Great Harwood already has a strong character, and a distinct heritage, with quirky people who are willing and happy to see others investing in the area, and who want to give something back, who want to make where they live a nice place to be.

“We’ve got lots to offer here, such as a fish mongers, a butchers, a bakery, a fish and chip shop; there’s a vegan cafe, Holy Cannoli; Turtle Bee which is an eco-friendly, plastic free shop; so we want to invite other businesses that will add to that existing atmosphere.

“I have two children and want them to have nice things to do in the area we live; to grow up somewhere green and beautiful and interesting.

“I have a business in Great Harwood which is part of a really thriving, creative community and I think it will be nice to have other things that feed into that so I can see other businesses prosper and grow.”

According to Hyndburn Council, polling of Great Harwood showed that only a quarter of locals regularly use its high street as a shopping destination and only 13 per cent socialise there.

Footfall has also been in decline since prior to the pandemic, with average daily footfall on Great Harwood’s high street 15 per cent lower than it was in 2019.

With a relatively elderly population (the over 65s make up 21 per cent of the population compared to 18 per cent nationally), concerns about maintaining levels of day-to-day activity are a high priority for the area, with safe, clean, well-maintained and attractive streets being vital to vulnerable and elderly populations’ activity levels.

Holden continued: “We want to work together and use this money for the good of Great Harwood.

“As well as improving the green spaces, we are aiming to test out some events in the town centre, bringing more people to the area. We can then measure the increase in footfall, with a view for more planned events in the future.

“The panel already has some things in mind, such as an artisan market on the town square, and we are doing our best to get someone to run that event for us.

“At the moment we’re just trying to dot the I’s and cross the T’s, and in time, people will be able to see the changes we’re bringing about.

“We are in the process of outlining things, and then the details will come once we have a vision - and we well are on our way to setting our vision of where we want to be in 10 years’ time - we want to be a thriving Royal

Charter market town with thriving independent businesses and community.

“Our slogan is: Great Harwood: Great Town, Great People, and that’s what we’re trying to push.

“In my opinion we are better than the Clitheroes and Whalleys of the world, and with the additional money we can do things those areas can’t.”

Holden said once the £737,000 has been spent on transforming the aesthetic appearance of Great Harwood’s high streets and planning for future events, the Town Panel will look into applying for more funding, helping them achieve their long-term vision.

Speaking after the £500,000 bid success last month, Councillor Noordad Aziz, Netherton Ward Councillor said: “I’d like to thank the Panel led by Peter Holden, and the residents and local businesses who supported the development of the proposals.”


Councillor Heather Anderson, Member of the Panel said: “This is fantastic news for Great Harwood. As a lifelong resident of the town, I’m delighted that we have managed to attract this funding and look forward to the improvements it will bring.”

Councillor Mohammed Younis, Member of the Panel and Portfolio holder for Levelling Up said: “I’m delighted that the council has received this funding, and grateful to all of those involved. I welcome any investment the council can bring to Great Harwood and all of our townships.”

Great Harwood is one of three towns across Lancashire to receive this additional £500,000 funding, alongside Blackburn and Blackpool.

The most recent £1.5 million comes from the government’s High Street Accelerators pilot programme launched in December last year, which is backed up to £7 million.

The pilot is working with 10 local authorities in England to accelerate improvements to their high streets, while empowering residents and local businesses to partner with them on a regeneration plan that meets the needs of the community.

The government’s Levelling Up department says the new funding will "restore the high streets with attractive changes and breathe new life and greenery into the towns’ high streets".

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