RETAILERS who fear their businesses would be seriously affected if an out-of-town retail park expands spoke out during a public inquiry this week.
Michael Whewell spoke on behalf of Hyndburn Chamber of Trade during the Government inquiry into Peel Holdings’ application to extend the Whitebirk retail park on the Hyndburn-Blackburn border.
He told Government planning inspector Andrew Pykett that such a move would kill off many businesses in Accrington town centre.
Mr Whewell said: "The main beneficiary of the expansion would be Peel and that would be to the detriment of the town centre."
When the development was first built in the 1980s, guidelines were put in place to prevent the sale of soft goods such as clothing and food.
Peel has now attempted to have the restrictions lifted on four units but permission has been refused by Hyndburn Council.
Mr Whewell said: "The restrictions are in place to protect the vitality and viability of the town centres.
"The £500,000 Peel has promised to invest in the Accrington town centre masterplan will not make up for the £26M Peel may make from Whitebirk."
Mr Whewell also argued that the development could see all restrictions lifted in the future.
This has happened at the Deepdale retail park in Preston which now has a huge Next, W H Smith, Boots, Brantano, Marks and Spencer, Argos, Clarks and Outfit.
Peels’ legal representative Roger Lancaster asked Mr Whewell if its proposed town centre investment would not help retailers.
Mr Lancaster said: "Do you not agree it will have a serious and positive impact on the town centre?"
Mr Whewell said: "It will have some impact but not to the extent Peel has argued.
"It cost £650,000 to re-pave Broadway. The £500,000 would only go so far."
The inquiry, which began last week, continues.