A PUBLIC meeting to gauge opinion on the idea of a heritage centre for Darwen ended with people left disappointed.

The town council wants to create the dedicated heritage centre which would be used to attract visitors to the town, and promote Darwen for shopping and leisure.

They had been looking to buy the former HSBC bank in The Circus, but now may have to consider alternative venues after the building was sold off, subject to contract.

The council plans to borrow money to purchase a heritage building, but has promised not to increase the council tax precept to pay for the loan.

While Darwen Town Council would own the building, councillors hope a trust board can be recruited from the town’s people to manage and direct the new centre.

But the plans have not been without controversy, as some residents object to the idea of housing the centre in a dedicated building.

Several people left Thursday night’s meeting at Darwen Aldridge Community Academy feeling unhappy, claiming they had not been properly consulted.

Tony Foster, who attended the meeting, said: “I assumed the meeting had been called in order to obtain people’s views on the centre, but it would seem the organisers only wanted answers to their questions, and therefore there was no two-way dialogue.”

And Lynn Schofield said: “It was disappointed about how it was run. We were expecting a public consultation.

“If that was public consultation, I can walk on the ceiling. It was not a proper consultation.

“They wouldn’t let people ask questions, and my husband and I stood up and left.”

But Darwen town councillor Brian Taylor, who has been leading the project, defended the consultation.

He said: “They sat down in groups for half an hour where they could ask any questions at all.

“Some people wanted to ask questions during the meeting but we didn’t want a free-for-all so asked for questions instead at the end, and I did stay at the end.

“I also said I would respond to emails and that seemed to suffice.

“They had ample opportunity to ask questions both in the groups and to me at the end directly.

“I’m flabbergasted by the vehement opposition. you would think I’m trying to take something away from them. I’m trying to give them something.

“I want to provide a bespoke building for a heritage centre, not a dusty corner of the library.”