Prime Minister Theresa May praises Pendle regeneration project on visit to Lancashire

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Prime Minister Theresa May took a break from Brexit negotiations to visit East Lancashire today when she viewed Burnley FC In the Community's new Leisure Box centre.

The community leisure facility, situated in the £32m. Northlight complex at Brierfield, played host to Mrs May who was visiting to offer her support to Conservative candidates in the upcoming marginal Pendle Council elections.

Prime Minister Theresa May and Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson chatting with two youngsters at the Leisure Box in Brierfield

Prime Minister Theresa May and Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson chatting with two youngsters at the Leisure Box in Brierfield

Mrs May chatted with children and workers at the facility, as she was given a guided tour, and joked she couldn't find many cricket fans among the children.

Speaking to the Express about the Leisure Box she said: "This is a fantastic facility and one which Burnley Football Club should be very proud of. Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson has championed this, which is very important for the community and for local regeneration.

"I was not tempted to try out the facilities for myself as I was wearing heels," she joked as she admitted her love for cricket had not been wholly reciprocated.

"I'm a big cricket fan and asked the children for a show of hands of who liked it also. I didn't get many but one boy told me he was going to be a batsman for England.

Mrs May chats to BFC In the Community staff members Leon Guthrie and Dean McGough

Mrs May chats to BFC In the Community staff members Leon Guthrie and Dean McGough

"The Leisure Box is going to be of huge benefit to the local community and particularly to the health and wellbeing of children. It's great to see Pendle Borough Council has been involved in supporting this project, as it has been in trying to reopen the Skipton to Colne railway line."

Mrs May fielded a range of questions on various topics including the future of local newspapers which she said were vital to local democracy and was why the Government had set up the Cairncross Review.

Brexit, understandably, was never far from the lips of those local journalists who quizzed the Prime Minister on how she felt 'Leave' voting residents of Burnley and Pendle would feel about the delays in exiting the European Union.

She replied: "We are the party in government that is going to deliver on Brexit. It is the Labour party that has overwhelmingly not been voting for the deal."

Mrs May chatting with children at the Leisure Box

Mrs May chatting with children at the Leisure Box

"I think there are real opportunities for the UK when we leave the EU," she added.

Northlight, the transformed former Smith and Nephew factory at Brierfield Mills, is a £32m. complex that includes new homes for Lancashire Adult Learning, BFC In the Community and arts organisation In-Situ, largely funded by the Local Economic Partnership.

Mrs May said: "We see LEPs as having a very important role and Northlight is a perfect example of how money can be spent wisely in local communities. Burnley Football Club should also be very proud of the role it has played in this."

Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson said he had chosen Northlight as the location for Mrs May's visit to the marginal constituency as it was "a shining example of partnership working between different people" and was Pendle's biggest ever regeneration project.

Graham Cowley, chairman of the LEP Growth Deal Management Board, said: “The opening of the Leisure Box facility is a major milestone in the development of the wider Northlight project.

“Nearly £6m. of Growth Deal funding has helped to transform this former mill complex into a thriving hub of education, leisure and residential services which everyone can enjoy.

“Such a mix of investments across commercial, cultural and community assets at the Northlight site is a great example of how Growth Deal funding can help unlock investment, stimulate regeneration and drive economic growth in an integrated and inclusive way.

“This project is one of many that have been supported by the LEP as part of a £1bn growth plan designed to transform Lancashire’s economy and accelerate the county’s position as a key driver of the Northern Powerhouse.”