A £2 million town centre public square has been given the go-ahead.
The area in front of the Accrington Town Hall and Market Hall will be transformed over the next 18 months into a large events area and will include features to commemorate the Accrington Pals and reflect the borough’s ‘rich industrial history’.
Under the scheme the two large horse chestnut trees in front of the Market Hall will be felled to open up the area and will include First World War-themed ‘duckboard benches’, tram seats and sculptures.
Five letters of objection were sent to Hyndburn council lamenting the loss of the trees and claiming that the development would be ‘detrimental to businesses in the area’.
Councillors approved the plans by a majority vote of 10-2 at a planning committee meeting this week.
Coun Judith Addison said she had ‘reservations about the scheme’ relating to the loss of trees, traffic and the onus on the public to organise future events.
She told the meeting: “My main concern is the road being closed to traffic as I feel that this isn’t beneficial to the businesses at that side of town on Peel Street, Church Street, Warner Street and Abbey Street.
“There is also an issue about incompatible uses. The Market Hall is being marketed for weddings and if an event is going on on the town square how will that affect people wanting to have pictures or access the town hall?
“The council won’t be organising events and it will be up to community organisations. I do query how much this square is going to be needed for events.”
The road outside the Market Hall and Town Hall will be closed off to traffic between 10am and 4pm, except for loading and police access, and will become a pedestrian and cycle zone.
Simon Prideaux, chief council planning officer, said the square will provide a ‘focal point’ for the town centre and will be ‘complemented by highways improvements on Blackburn Road and Peel Street’.
He told the meeting: “That stretch of Blackburn Road is already subject to limitations and is only open to buses and taxis.
“The aim is to try and develop this as a centre to ultimately attract more people to the area and increase the footfall for businesses and the Market Hall.”
Planning committee chairman Coun Bernard Dawson welcomed the investment and said it will improve the area.
He also told the meeting the chestnut trees are in ‘various states of decay’ and ‘shouldn’t have been planted there all those years ago’.