The M65 motorway was opened in sections between 1981 and 1988, and formed a link between Blackburn and Burnley, two old mill towns in terminal decline. So much so that it was nicknamed ‘the motorway from nowhere, to nowhere’. Maybe the planners simply had their map upside down, but the rest of the motorway i.e. from Blackburn to the M6/M61, and thus the outside world, wasn’t opened until 1997. This has since done much to boost east Lancashire, as although the textile industry has continued its decline, the motorway has opened up a very isolated, insular part of the world to new development. The aerospace industry, traditionally strong in the Burnley area, has thrived in recent times, but the older textile industries have continued their decline.
One of the most recent, and significant, departures was Smith and Nephew, aka BSN Medical. Sat astride the Leeds Liverpool canal, and it’s 20th century equivalent, the aforementioned M65, Brierfield Mill is a gigantic rock of Gibraltar-like place, both in its size and seeming permanence.
The mill closed in 2010, with production transferring to Germany. Since then, it has sat unused, a gigantic quandary for all involved as to what to do with it. Being listed a listed building limited the options, and the initial proposal for a Muslim girls school was rejected by the council as the focus now is on integration rather than segregation of communities.
The mill was then bought by Pendle Council and they entered into a joint venture with Barnfield Construction to produce an ambitious plan for not just the mill but some of the adjacent land as well. Full details can be found here.
I recently had the privilege of being allowed to photograph in the mill and over the next few weeks I will post my photographs on this blog.