DAVID Gould, chairman of Rawtenstall Chamber of Commerce, discusses The Valley Centre, and the future of the town centre

During the 22 years I have worked in Rossendale, the subject of redeveloping Rawtenstall town centre has come up many times.

But nothing ever really happened until Rossendale Council acquired and demolished The Valley Centre site towards the end of 2011.

Even this coup was not without controversy and there is clearly some residual resentment from people who think the purchase funds should have gone elsewhere.

A quick search of social media finds people proclaiming it as ‘a total waste of £2.5 million that should have been spent on a new swimming pool’.

The rights and wrongs of what happened are not for me to argue. But what’s done is done, and Rawtenstall town centre is immeasurably better for being rid of The Valley Centre, and I believe it’s time to move on.

We have arrived at a crossroads and we are faced with choices which will determine the future of the town centre.

I say ‘we’ deliberately because decisions are about to be made that will affect many of us in our lifetimes, and will affect the lives of people who are still at school, or not even born yet.

‘We’ includes Rossendale Borough Council, Barnfield Construction and DAY Architectural but, above all, it includes the people who live or work in Rawtenstall.

Previous proposals for redevelopment have been put forward without any meaningful public consultation process which would allow residents and businesses to offer their input and express their needs to the people who need to hear them.

But having met these people with my Rawtenstall Chamber of Commerce colleagues, it is clear that ‘we’ includes more than the just the people in the driving seat.For this reason, I implore you to make sure your voice is heard on March 7/8 at Longholme Methodist Church.

Several interesting proposals will be available to view and DAY Architectural will be there to listen to you, along with Barnfield Construction and Rossendale Council.

It’s vitally important that you use your voice now, to ensure that we get what’s right for Rawtenstall, even if it’s to say that you’re a fan of the town square and you’d like to keep it.