The Lower St James’s Street HAZ provides a unique opportunity with investment into the built environment, combined with community engagement to enhance the streetscape, reduce building vacancies and increase visitors to the area. The Lower St James’s Street HAZ objectives include:
- Building on the areas existing assets – working with established businesses and utilising heritage assets that already exist in the area to develop and enhance the retail and cultural offer.
- Physical works – to include repair and conservation works through grant funding available to property owners to a number of buildings within the Lower St James’s Street area. Also, implementing a high-quality public realm scheme to deliver environmental improvements. Works will include upgrading of paving and highway surfaces, incorporation of pedestrian crossing points, decluttering of redundant street furniture/signage and improved traffic flow and access.
- Creating new creative spaces – to bring back into use a vacant building within the area as a space for local artists and creatives to work, exhibit and grow.
- Empire theatre vision – to work in partnership with the Empire Theatre Trust on short-term and long-term aspirations for the building.
- Community engagement – to engage the local community in local heritage and culture through events/activities as well as heritage skills training opportunities.
- Cultural programme – to develop and implement a cultural programme of activities that celebrates the identity of the local high street.
The HAZ scheme will focus on a compact area of mostly Victorian buildings predominantly in retail use situated in the lower area of St James’s Street. This area represents a cluster of buildings of architectural merit with the Burnley Town Centre Conservation Area which through investment can be enhanced and restored.
The HAZ area also includes the Grade II listed Empire Theatre, which has been on the Theatres at Risk Register since it began in 2006. The Empire is the sole survivor of the five variety music halls in Burnley and the only purpose-built Victorian Theatre of its kind in East Lancashire. Today, it is in a very poor condition. However, under the new ownership of the Burnley Empire Theatre Trust working alongside the National Trust and the Lower St James’s Street HAZ Partnership means it could once again become a vibrant community venue.
Lower St James’s Street has been highlighted as an area for concern within the draft Conservation Area Appraisal due to a large number of vacancies and the loss of historic detail. However, these factors are far from being irreversible and with an injection of funding into the physical environment, along with community involvement could turn the area around.