THE debate over whether Accrington is becoming a ghost town flared up again during a meeting of town centre leaders.
The issue came under the spotlight following an article in the Observer two weeks ago, when we printed pictures of numerous empty shops and asked whether the town centre was failing.
Since then, several residents have written letters expressing support for that view, with many also complaining about the large number of discount and bargain shops.
But council leader Peter Britcliffe hit back, saying people should stop criticising Accrington because it led to negative headlines that made the town look bad. He said: "I think Accrington has knocked itself for far too long and we have got to start looking at the positive side of it."
"So much important work has already been done."
"I don't know why Accrington people always knock the town. I would like to see them as proud of their town as I am of Oswaldtwistle."
Nigel Rix, director of Hyndburn FIRST, added that statistically there were fewer empty shops in the town centre than in previous years and warned against creating a false impression.
But Councillor Graham Jones, who said in our original article that the state of the town centre was a tragedy, told the Observer that he stood by his opinions.
He added: "Nigel Rix and Peter Britcliffe just won't face up to the truth - the town centre is not in a good state. A lot of people have come to me to express these concerns."
"I care about Accrington passionately and I was democratically elected to represent 4,000 people and their views. That is my priority."
"I am very concerned about the town centre and I feel there are more vacant shops than ever - I am entitled to express that opinion. It is something we must look at."