Over the last few weeks I have been working on progressing a number of local projects.
One of the most important is Brierfield Mills. After I put pressure on the Government, they gave Pendle Council a £1.5m. grant to buy Brierfield Mills in March, 2012. Under the previous Government the building, formerly the home of Smith and Nephew, had been sold to a Birmingham-based Islamic charity that had planned to covert the site into a 5,000-place girls’ boarding school.
The current Government’s action means the council can regenerate this landmark site to benefit the whole area.
Unfortunately, since winning the grant, far too little progress has been made. Therefore, on June 10th, I stepped in again, meeting the Minister for Housing and Local Growth, Mark Prisk MP, to talk him through the project and tell him how, in my view, this massive site could be a real driver for jobs and growth in our area. I also extended an invite to the Minister to come with me to look at Brierfield Mills and was delighted he was able to do so.
One of the ways I hope the project can be moved forwards is through European Regional Development Funding. This funding could unlock private sector investment and drive up business interest in the site. Unfortunately, a recent bid by the council for an additional £1.5m. of this funding looked unlikely to be approved due to a combination of factors.
So, on June 20th I met another Minister, Baroness Hanham CBE. Her responsibilities include the ERDF programme. Our meeting was very constructive and I am hopeful the bid for this additional £1.5m. of funding will now be successful.
I will keep this project under constant review, to ensure Brierfield Mills delivers the jobs and investment local people want to see.