Council bosses have defended plans for Accrington’s new £3m town square after opposition bosses labelled them a ‘complete waste of money and time’ and a ‘non-event’.
Conservative councillor Peter Britcliffe told a Hyndburn council meeting this week that he had ‘grave reservations’ about the public events space and Pals tribute in the front of the Market Hall and Town Hall.
The meeting also revealed that:
Events on the square will not be organised by the council and will have to be ‘driven by the public’.
The council does not want it to become a ‘fairground area and full of rides’.
Both large horse chestnut trees will be pulled down.
The planning application will be decided by committee on March 1.
Coun Britcliffe told the meeting that the money could be better spent and that there are other areas of the town ‘in much more need of improvement’.
He said: “I’m not decrying the very enthusiastic work that’s gone into it, but all I can see is a big empty square.
“I also fear that we are going to lose the two horse chestnut trees which will again provoke a public outcry.
"You know what happens when you pull trees down but you don’t seem to learn from it. They are beautiful trees and a lot of people like them.
“It will cost £3 million and £1.5 million is coming from Hyndburn council taxpayers.
“Do we really need a grant for something that I don’t think is wanted or needed in this borough?
“What Accrington needs is life, vitality, some really enthusiastic planning.
“This square is a non-event and will be a non-event square. I think it’s a complete waste of money and time.”
However, Coun Clare Cleary, Hyndburn council’s portfolio holder for regeneration, defended the scheme and said it will ‘bring pride back into the town and reinvigorate it’.
Speaking in response to questions about events on the square, she said: “It’s going to have to be driven by the public.
“We can’t afford to put massive events on in the town but the town square lends itself to events like an outdoor cinema in the summer and putting concerts on.
“It’s for the public to come to us and say can you enable this to happen? We can provide the space and they can put the events on.
“What I don’t want it to become is a fairground area which is full of rides. It’s a cultural thing for the town.
“We have proved with the food festival that uses that area.”
Council leader Miles Parkinson said the square, which will include First World War-themed ‘duckboard benches’, tram seats and sculptures, will ‘give a lasting memory to those soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice 100 years ago’.
He told the meeting: “Even though we may be a deprived area, we have some fantastic buildings and they are not shown off to the best of their ability.”