IT WAS a victory for Accrington town centre traders this week when a controversial out-of-town shopping plan was thrown out.
Despite a recommendation for approval - and the creation of 250 jobs, Hyndburn Council's planning committee unanimously voted to refuse Manchester-based Peel Holdings' application to expand the Whitebirk Retail Park amid fears that it would be too much of a threat to existing shops in Accrington town centre.
Shopkeepers breathed a sigh of relief as members voted against the application to change four units at the park into retail space for 'soft-goods' for companies including Next and Asda Home.
Peel Holdings wanted to lift current restrictions which stipulate the units cannot be used for clothing and food.
But the application met with fierce opposition from businesses in the town centre.
Ian Smith, president of the Chamber of Trade, told the committee that if the application went ahead future investment in the town centre would not happen, which would lead to the further decline of already-struggling businesses.
He said: "We need to stop our decline and not speed it up. This development will lead to a decline of Accrington's town centre."
After the meeting Mr Smith admitted he was surprised with the result.
He added: "I am pleased. We have campaigned for this decision and are happy with it. Thank God they refused."
Councillor Malcolm Pritchard told the committee he believed future retail development should focus on the town centre.
He said: "I am more interested in keeping Accrington town centre as a viable option than expanding premises outside of it."
Peel Holdings says it now plans to appeal against the decision as it believes it was not in the best interest of Accrington shoppers.
Company spokesman Gareth Finch said: "We are very disappointed. The vast majority of people we surveyed were in favour of this development. Everybody surveyed said they shop elsewhere than Accrington. They will just carry on going elsewhere."
The decision comes as the council reveals more of its town centre masterplan (click on the link below for more) ....