Labour councillors have hit back at Hyndburn’s opposition Conservative group over its criticism of plans for a new £2m town square, saying negative apathy was being stirred up on the internet.
Planning permission was granted earlier this month for the public square outside the town hall and market hall featuring an Accrington Pals memorial.
Due to be finished in April 2018, the redevelopment is part of the Townscape Heritage Initiative scheme, funded by the Heritage Lottery in conjunction with the council, which will see historic buildings repaired, shopfronts restored and vacant buildings brought back into use.
Speaking at a recent council cabinet meeting, Coun Ken Moss accused the Tories of ‘trying to score political points at the expense of the town centre’.
He said: “What’s out there in ‘internet land’ is that the council are wasting millions of your money on an empty space and that the council should be spending that on improving the shops and getting Primark in and reducing business rates, none of which we have any control over.
“I understand your function as an opposition is to oppose and pick apart, but a certain opposition backbencher is stirring up, what has been referred to in the last fortnight, as a lot of alternative facts, and it’s not helping.
“You should be saying ‘yeah, we don’t agree with this and this would be a better way’, rather than allowing a backbencher to stir up negative apathy towards Accrington town centre, just at the time when it really doesn’t need someone knocking it.
“I understand it’s a political battleground out there but it’s not helping Accrington and we really should be rising above all this and looking at the bigger picture.”
Conservative group leader Tony Dobson replied that they were ‘frustrated’ about the ‘lack of vision’ for the town centre and the lack of planned events for the new square.
He told the meeting: “I think the problem is with the town square proposal it’s to do the work but not to galvanise any events on it.
“I can’t find one business in Accrington town centre who believes that it’s going to make their business more feasible.
“If you as a controlling group said to us we are going to do this town square and this is a list of events we are going to have on for the next 12 months after it’s completed then we may be able to get behind you.
“As a responsible opposition we are trying to point these things out to you, not in a political way, but in a way that says ‘all we are doing is the infrastructure’ and all we are going to have if we are not careful is a white elephant.”
Council leader Miles Parkinson told the meeting that he will arrange to meet with Coun Dobson to look at possible events between 2018 and 2020.
He said: “You are fully aware that if this money isn’t invested then we can’t say we will go and give it to John Lewis or Primark because it can’t be done. It’s Heritage Lottery money.”