WORK has started on a £2.5m heritage-led regeneration scheme in Burnley to turn a street into an alternative retail and creative quarter, following confirmation of £1.2m of funding from Historic England.

The first phase of a four-year programme for Lower St James Street started last week with a scheme of public realm improvements.

The wider regeneration scheme has been drawn up by Burnley Council working with local businesses, UCLan and Burnley Empire Trust as part of Historic England’s successful Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) initiative.

It will breathe new life into the conservation area, restoring and bringing back into use empty building alongside a programme of cultural activities to restore its historic character.

The untapped potential of this part of the town’s core, with its strategic position between the growing student population at UCLan’s base in the Weavers’ Triangle and the town centre, will be enhanced.

Also, building on the momentum created by work to restore the Burnley Empire Theatre, the HAZ aims to nurture an evolving creative district by creating more opportunities for local artists and bringing together the local community to celebrate Burnley’s identity and strong sense of pride.

Council leader Cllr Charlie Briggs said: “This is great news for Burnley and we’re very happy the hard work put in by the council to apply for this money has paid off.

“Lower St James Street is identified as a key project in the town centre and Canalside Masterplan.

"The programme aims to create a distinctive, vibrant cultural quarter sitting between the town centre and the Weavers’ Triangle, linking the evolving canalside university campus to the town centre.

“We’ve invested in improving other parts of the town centre and it’s important that lower St James Street is brought up to a similar standard. It will make it more attractive, increase footfall encourage private sector investment

The funding application said: “The borough has a history of creativity, but many creative people have to move away from the borough to find suitable studio space and artistic networks. There is untapped potential in the buildings in St James Street, together with experience of the partners to turn this trend around and deliver a new creative community in the heart of the conservation area.”

It is proposed to use the money together with match funding to deliver: grants for works to heritage buildings in the area, focusing on those that have been vacant for a prolonged period, for restoration of historic features, sympathetic and well-designed shop fronts, and for bringing upper floors back into use.

It also will help to develop a creative hub in the area with workshops and exhibition space for contemporary visual artists and will also bring a programme of cultural events in and around Lower St James Street including for example open studios, street art and street theatre.