MAJOR investment in Blackburn town centre is vital to prevent it declining into ‘another Accrington’, borough finance chief Andy Kay has told business leaders.
His comments have angered Hyndburn politicians who accused him of ‘pub talk’ and ‘typical Blackburn arrogance’.
Coun Kay, deputy leader of Blackburn with Darwen council, was addressing local business leaders about his plans for redeveloping the borough’s main town centre.
After outlining the plans for the Cathedral Quarter, new bus station and ‘Blackburn is Open’ campaign, he turned to justifying spending millions of pounds council tax and business ratepayers money on the initiatives.
Coun Kay told the meeting at the town hall: “We have a vision of what we want the future of the town centre to be.
“We have to invest. We must not stand still.
“We cannot allow Blackburn to become another Accrington or Hyndburn.”
After the meeting, Coun Kay said: “Hyndburn totally failed to invest in the future of the borough and Accrington town centre for many years.
“The results are plain to see. These are difficult times and we have to invest in the future.”
He paid tribute to Burnley’s record in promoting the growth of new businesses.
Hyndburn Tory councillor Tony Dobson, whose Barnfield ward includes part of Accrington town centre, said: “I think Coun Kay’s comments are disappointing and not true.
“If you look at the figures for empty town centre shops I think you will see Blackburn is worse than Accrington.
“Some people will see this as typical Blackburn arrogance which is not justified when you look at how its night-time economy has disappeared.’ Hyndburn borough Labour leader Miles Parkinson said: “Our priority in Hyndburn is to create jobs and that is what we are doing.
“The borough is often overshadowed by its larger neighbours Blackburn and Burnley.
“We want to see all the towns in East Lancashire grow. That should be all our aim.
“As councillors we should not be disparaging our neighbouring towns .
“That is a simple task. It’s just pub talk.
“We want to make Accrington town centre a niche market, different from the sameness of our bigger neighbours.”