Northern Democracy

Burnley – the new Seattle?

Tony Wilson on a possible future for the former milltowns of East Lancashire, which, re-branded as Pennine Lancashire or PL, could follow the example of Seattle.

Yes, it’s got Microsoft in the hills and Meg Ryan in the movie, but that’s now,” the report says. “Twenty years ago, with Boeing in decline, Seattle was washed up, and someone famously graffiti’d on the Interstate sign going south: ‘Would the last one out please turn off the lights.’ And for further encouragement, please note that the climate in Seattle is slightly wetter, slightly colder and slightly foggier than Pennine Lancashire.”

Seattle has its ocean sound, PL has the Leeds-Liverpool canal, says Wilson, without a blush. It will be PL’s job to exploit the canal’s leisure and development potential. “It is only with this bohemian culture you create the living environment for the creative class – the only way forward for the old smokestack towns – and surely east Lancashire is the world repository of the smokestack town.”

Wilson believes PL can become the Silverlake (a “dull hilltop suburb of Hollywood” that he compares to London’s Hampstead) of Greater Manchester, attracting younger professionals with starter dwellings for the young creative/middle classes. “We’re not forcing something here,” he says. “Artists are already moving to Bacup, and Ramsbottom is already a desirable suburb for young creatives in Manchester.”

Stop sniggering you southern jessies. Beneath Wilson’s trademark hyperbole and silly language are a few good ideas here for towns which no longer have the economy which created them and which have long been forgotten by policy makers.

Here is the full report in PDF format – I’ll have some more thoughts after I’ve had time to read it.