A bid by a council planning chief for a cafe seating area on the new £2m town square has been overwhelmingly rejected, after his fellow councillors slammed it as ‘garish’ and ‘completely inappropriate’.
Eamonn Higgins, who runs the Accrington Pals Outdoor Cafe and also chairs Hyndburn council’s planning committee, applied for planning permission for four tables and chairs in front of Accrington’s Market Hall, along with green Astroturf to protect the new flagstones.
Planning officers had recommended the scheme for approval - despite 23 objections - but the committee rejected the proposal this week by 11 votes to one on the grounds of ‘visual amenity’.
Coun Clare Cleary, who is chairman of the Accrington Town Team, told the meeting: “Quite frankly I’m shocked that this has come to planning because this seating area with the astroturf is just completely inappropriate for the conservation area.
“The actual shop fronts that we are trying to get people to develop have strict criteria with colour schemes, and garish Accrington Pals black and blue signs are not in keeping with what we are trying to do.”
Noel Murtagh, who organised a petition against the plans, said it was ‘madness’.
He told the meeting: “One person described this to me as the ‘wacky tacky cafe in Accy’.
“If this goes ahead then it will completely undermine the reasons for spending the £2m on this square.
“It’s madness and would spoil a direct vista to the Market Hall.”
Coun Marlene Haworth said approving the scheme could lead to a ‘nasty precedent’.
She said: “How many of the cafes are there in the market that could come forward and also want to put something out there?
“Are we going to allow them all?
“Is the square that we spent all this money on going to end up as one large cafe?”
Supporting the scheme, Coun Stephen Button argued: “I can’t see the town being completely over-run with cafes but if it was then it would mean people were coming into the town.”
Mr Higgins, who did not attend the planning meeting, told the Observer afterwards: “I have always had a seating area in front of the Market Hall and when the town square plans came forward I was told that if I wanted to continue having it then I would have to make it more upmarket.
“That’s what I did and I thought it looked quite nice.
"I did what I was asked and went through the democratic process but unfortunately the councillors on the committee have rejected it.”