A row has broken out over a ‘fake takeaway’ in Accrington town centre.
The image of the inside of a kebab shop has been put on the front of an empty shop unit which used to house Rexy’s takeaway, on Church Street.
It is the first of a series of ‘fake shop fronts’ to be created to hide empty shop units.
Council bosses are hoping to install a shop front similar to the empty Jack Fulton building, on Broadway, in Accrington.
The scheme could be rolled out to other empty units if it proves successful with shoppers and business owners.
But Councillor Peter Britcliffe, the Conservative leader on Hyndburn council, said: “I think if you would ask people they would say there are too many takeaways in the town already without creating fake ones. Why not a book shop or a fashion dress shop?
“It is really sad that we have to do this in the first place.
“I would have thought that there were better ways to invest in the town centre instead of putting fake takeaways and shops up.
“This is a way to close their eyes to the problem. It is all very well waiting for grants but the town centre needs investment urgently.”
But traders on Church Street have voiced their support for the idea. John Hussain, owner of Sinbad’s takeaway and Dixie Chic ‘N’ Hut, said it will stop the area ‘looking like Beirut’.
He said: “I think it’s a very nice idea and they are trying to make everything look better.
“I saw it the other day and thought the shop was open. Hopefully it will freshen up the town centre and Church Street.
“At the moment it looks like Beirut with the shops closed. We need to get people into the area which we are struggling to do at the moment.”
James Hartley, manager at Hairy Stories, said the virtual shop looked ‘very effective’.
He said: “There are some eyesores around and this will help make it look better and tidier.
“It’s a shame there’s so many shut down but hopefully this will make it nicer.”
Deputy council leader Clare Pritchard said the council had taken inspiration from other towns and cities throughout the UK that had launched similar schemes.
Funding for the Virtual Shops will come from the £100,000 high street innovation fund awarded to the council last year to rejuvenate the town centres.
Coun Pritchard said: “We have put one of the virtual shops in this week on the corner of Church Street and Warner Street in Accrington.
“That will be the first one and we are putting the covering on the windows to make it not look empty.
“We are also looking at doing that for various other premises including Jack Fulton’s on Broadway. We just think it looks better.
“We are determined to make our town centre look as good as possible. Other towns have done it successfully and we thought it looked nice and was a good idea.”
What do you think? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling in to our office on the balcony of the market hall.