Published May 29, 2020 at 15:37
An exciting £1.9million National Lottery-funded transformation of The Whitaker in Rawtenstall will begin in June after local firm B&E Boys was awarded the contract.
The project which includes converting the former barn and stables is being delivered by Rossendale Borough Council in partnership with the Whitaker CIC and is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund with matched funding of £189,950 from the council.
The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the awarding of the contract to Waterfoot construction firm B&E Boys, however from June 22 the company will move on site and a week later visitors to Whitaker Park will see progress begin on the development.
Managing Director of The Whitaker Carl Bell said:
“This is an important stage for the project as well as being good news at a difficult time for everyone.
“Having a local firm that understands the importance of the park and the museum to the whole area feels right. We’ll work together to deliver a place the whole Valley can be proud of.”
Project Manager Charlotte Steels said:
“We received tenders from companies all over Lancashire and it was keenly fought.
“The enthusiasm that B&E Boys showed for the project really came across and the company made a strong submission.
“The company has been working through the pandemic, adhering to social distancing guidelines, and these will also be observed during the work to develop The Whitaker.”
Timelines have been altered because of the delay, and now work to create the café, exhibition and event space and public facilities is scheduled for completion in March 2021.
Leader of Rossendale Council Councillor Alyson Barnes said:
“We’re in really tough times but we will get through it. We have been working hard to progress projects despite having to respond to this awful virus.
I am delighted that the redevelopment of The Whitaker can now begin to go ahead.
“I hope this major project will be a symbol that Rossendale is coming out of the pandemic and we are moving forward in creating an even better borough for people to come and visit.”
A visit to Rossendale Museum, as The Whitaker used to be known, was a regular occurrence for the Boys’ family.
Director John Boys explained:
“We are very familiar with the building because as children we went to the museum often and I remember seeing the stuffed elephant. We also had our office Christmas party at The Whitaker.
“We are really excited about carrying out the project and we will be employing a lot of local people on site; on average around 25.”
Although B&E Boys furloughed a third of employees, office staff worked from home. Work on some construction projects was maintained but fewer operatives were employed to ensure social distancing.
The conversion of the barn and stables will free up space as the café and bar will be relocated and the vacated rooms can then be used for exhibits and art displays.