Green light for Lancs design scheme by Tony Wilson

An ambitious design plan to breathe new life into East Lancashire, backed by Factory Records founder Tony Wilson and former model and music promoter Yvette Livesey, took a step closer last week.

Last summer, their consultancy, Livesey/Wilson Ideas Management, put forward a number of schemes in an ‘ideas paper’, which are now being developed and will form part of a wider Government programme of housing regeneration, run by Elevate East Lancashire.

Reaching across a number of the region’s former mill towns, the plans aim to use a combination of design, branding and architecture to change perceptions of the area, with consultancy appointments set to be made in the coming months.

Livesey/Wilson Ideas Management was appointed to the project this week from a three-strong shortlist featuring a regeneration company and a public relations company, according to Elevate communications director Kathleen Reagan Houghton. ‘The ideas they produced [in last year’s document] have already created a terrific buzz. There is a feeling that the time has come for this part of England,’ she says.

According to Elevate’s chief executive Max Steinberg, physical construction in the region must be supported by changing the perception of the area. ‘Physical renovation work, remodelling and rebuilding of homes and neighbourhoods alone cannot transform East Lancashire’s housing market. The importance of reinvigorating the area’s image is vital,’ he says.

Livesey/Wilson’s proposals include the construction of an iconic Fashion Tower that would act as a landmark building to celebrate Lancashire’s role in the textile industry, during the Industrial Revolution. Former Imagination marketing and strategic planning director Ralph Ardill is acting as a consultant to Livesey/Wilson, drawing on his experience of designing the Guinness Storehouse attraction in Dublin.

The blueprint for the tower, created by Livesey/Wilson and Ardill, includes a bar at the summit, an exhibition telling the story of the Industrial Revolution, ‘incubators’ for fashion-based businesses and a school of textile and fashion design. Rather than acting as a retail centre, as originally proposed by Livesey/Wilson, Ardill suggested a single shop for the tower instead, selling exclusive items by northern fashion designers.

Another scheme in the proposals is Pennine Lancs Squared, a series of designs for civic spaces. ‘These are civic spaces that would help to create an identity for each of the individual towns, but also link the East Lancashire region. They are intended to be examples of best practice, in terms of design for civic space,’ says Amanda Richardson, Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment programme manager at Elevate’s Design East Lancashire. Richardson will bring Cabe’s experience – and potentially funding – to help develop the Pennine Lancs Squared idea.

Uniting these and other schemes, in Livesey/Wilson’s Dreaming of Pennine Lancashire document, is the brand Pennine Lancashire, which the pair suggest could become the region’s new name. They will now develop and investigate these ideas, in discussion with a steering group of local councils, development bodies and local communities, and are scheduled to report their findings next month.

When it has been decided which projects are viable in terms of funding and local support, designers will be appointed.

By Scott Billings

PENNINE LANCASHIRE

• Anthony Wilson and Yvette Livesey appointed to investigate design, architecture and civic projects

• Local authorities are Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle and Rossendale

• Steering group includes these councils, the Northwest Regional Development Agency and Lancashire Economic Partnership

• Proposals include a Fashion Tower, football theme park, new public spaces in town centres, and branding the area as Pennine Lancashire

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