CONTROVERSIAL plans for a £26M revamp of the Peel retail centre at Whitebirk have been thrown out by Hyndburn Council amid fears it would lure business away from Accrington town centre.
The scheme, submitted by Peel Holdings, involved attracting big-name stores into the 15-year-old complex in a bid to bring in more shoppers and create new jobs.
Negotiations had already begun with well-known retail giants including Boots, Next and the Arcadia Group.
Plans were also in place to set up a bus link to the complex and to get traders to promise they would stay open for at least three years.
But the scheme had already come under fire from opponents including Hyndburn's Chamber of Trade which feared it could spell disaster for Accrington's small shops.
Chamber president Peter Aspin told a meeting of the Planning Committee: "This development would have a big impact on the Hyndburn area and could affect the future of private investment in the town centre.
'It could affect developments such as the Market Hall as people might see the Whitebirk development as a major competitor. It could undermine a lot of good work which has been done in Accrington."
His fears were echoed by many councillors who felt they could not allow the expansion to go ahead.
Councillor Doug Hayes said: "This could be the death knell of Accrington if we allow this so close to our town centre. There could be a mass exodus of people out of the shops and so I cannot go along with it."
Councillor David Myles added: "We have spent a lot of money trying to regenerate the town centre and we have brought schemes such as Elevate on board to help us do that.
"We cannot allow this development because it would mean working against ourselves, especially if we consider the Government's policy on regenerating towns."
The controversial plan did have some supporters on the council, however.
Councillor Tim O'Kane said: "At the moment, we are not attracting big-name stores into Accrington. There were big fears in 1999 that the opening of Great Harwood Co-op would attract business away from the one in Clayton, but that has not happened.
"This is a thing of the moment and because I think it would be good for the people of Hyndburn I must support it."
Peel Holdings says it will be taking a look at the options available to it to decide what it will do next.
Richard Mawdsley, development manager, said: "This is very disappointing as we thought we had a good proposal which would have been good news for Hyndburn.
"However, we will go away and try to come up with a way forward for the future."