Town centre businesses who want to improve their shop fronts have been given an extra incentive - with their contribution to the works halved.

Funding has been increased from the Townscape Heritage Initiative scheme to reinstate lost architectural and historic features on buildings along Blackburn Road in Accrington, close to the new Pals square.

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The Observer reported last November that ZERO shops had taken up the offer with owners having to contribute up to 30 per cent of the costs. Traders said this could amount to between £7,000 and £50,000 and that most ‘can’t afford it’.

Hyndburn council has now confirmed that THI funding has increased so businesses will now only have to foot up to 15 per cent of the bill.

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Chief executive David Welsby told a recent business meeting: “We’ve got some very substantial grants available to the retailers operating in the area, between 82 per cent and 85 per cent, for owners to improve their shop frontages. That’s important because we want to try and improve occupancy rates and we are going to try and drive that programme during the year.”

Council leader Miles Parkinson hopes more business will come forward and join the scheme.

He said: “We know that town centres are going through a difficult time because of internet shopping and deliveries from retail parks etc. It’s all about trying to revive town centres.

“We are not the only one in the country to have difficulties but we have laid out a plan.”

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Drainage, pavement and resurfacing upgrades are currently being carried out on Blackburn Road as part of the THI scheme and businesses in the area have offered a mixed outlook on the town centre’s prospects.

James Peach, of Giant Peach Tattoo Studios on Blackburn Road, said there are now a lot of empty businesses.

He said: “Where the bus station went meant loads of convenient parking went for those coming into town.”

But Sarah Brankin, co-owner of Church Street News and Food, is ‘optimistic’ for the future.

She said: “We’ve had the business for 10 years and have worked very hard to be in the position where we have taken on two new staff members.

“Yes, there are issues and I think footfall has fallen since Marks and Spencer closed but there’s still a lot of attractive features of the town.”