Council bosses will lobby the government to reduce ‘crippling’ business rates to help keep big name shops in the town centre.
Shoppers in Accrington have suffered in recent months with the closure of Arndale Centre shops including H Samuel and New Look.
Deputy council leader Clare Pritchard said Arndale Centre bosses are working as hard as they can to attract and retain big name shops but are being ‘killed’ by extortionate business rates.
The council’s overview and scrutiny committee has now voted to lobby the Local Government Association to address the issue.
Coun Pritchard told a committee meeting this week: “I won’t talk down the town centre. I think Accrington is performing fine compared to a lot of other town centres our size.
“The Arndale Centre can’t lower the rent more than they have.
“They are rising to the challenge. They are just as keen as us to fill the centre.
“The business rates are absolutely crippling and we will look to lobby the LGA to ensure at least freezing the business rates in the new financial year.”
The Observer exclusively reported last week that WH Smiths are set to stay.
Oswaldtwistle councillor and committee member Doug Hayes said the rates are ‘horrendous’ and something needed to be done.
He told the meeting: “There is a shortfall of people coming into the Arndale Centre and that is causing a shortfall around the town centre.
“Something needs to be done to help them.”
Tory group leader Peter Britcliffe said all political parties are coming together to address town centre issues and called on landlords to reduce rents for businesses.
He told the meeting: “It’s time for the people that own these premises to realise we are in a new age and we have been in an ongoing recession
“Surely it would be better to get less rents and have some of those shops full? “Then you will get into a supply and demand situation and you could then increase the rents.
“I am delighted WH Smiths are staying but we have lost some good names from the Arndale. They are not businesses that have gone bankrupt as you see them in other parts of the country.”
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Two high street chains to operate under one roof
Two high street chains based in the Accrington Arndale are to offer their services in one shop.
Timpson and Max Spielmann will operate in the same unit starting next month.
The move will mean customers can buy photographs and get their keys cut under the same roof.
Bosses of Timpson Ltd, who own Max Spielmann, last week told the Observer that the photography chain was closing its Arndale store.
But they have since confirmed that Timpson will move into the Max Spielmann shop and both will trade from it.
Fran Finnerty, 50, a Timpson employee in Accrington for the past seven years, said he was looking forward to the change. He said: “The lease on the Timpson unit in the Arndale has finished already but we are staying in there until March 11. Then we are moving around the corner to Max Spielmann and are due to open on March 15.
“We are looking forward to it. It’s a new move and a busier part of the centre.
“I think both services can work together. We don’t need any shops going from the Arndale so it is good both are staying open. Customers can choose what they want all under one roof.”
Last week the Observer exclusively revealed that heritage museum bosses were hoping to land £250,000 in funding to open a museum in the Arndale.
We also reported that WHSmith had performed a u-turn on plans to close its unit and committed its future to Accrington for up to five years.