THE owners of Accrington Arndale Centre have announced plans to temporarily close the upper levels of its car park while a safety review is carried out.
There have been five deaths in five years at the centre, in Union Street, with the latest being 17-year-old Lauren Johnson, who fell to her death on Thursday June 5.
A statement released by Lee Baron Chartered Surveyors on behalf of the Jesta Group said: “The centre owners are conducting an immediate review of the security at the Arndale Centre in Accrington car park, following the tragic fatality on June 5.
“As a temporary measure ahead of reviewing the safety of the centre generally, David Berman, director of Jesta Capital Corporation, has asked specialist contractors to advise on the closure of the lifts and the access ramps to the top decks in the car park.
“Although our immediate concern is to implement a temporary closure of the upper decks, we have arranged a meeting on July 3 to consult with appropriate advisers, the police, senior representatives from the Samaritans and the local authority, and will give regular updates once we have taken professional advice on car park safety.”
Campaigner Sarah Clitheroe, who led renewed calls for the centre to be ‘made safe or knocked down’, said the announcement would not affect plans for a protest march on Saturday.
She said: “It’s better than nothing – for now – but it won’t affect the march because it’s only a temporary measure. I’m happier, but the march will still go ahead because we want a long term solution and we want to raise awareness of Lauren’s charity, Lauren’s Place.
“Thank you to the Arndale Centre for acting. Let’s hope it closes forever.”
Burnley-born Lauren, who lived in Blackburn Road, Oswaldtwistle, was laid to rest at an emotional service on Friday.
The march will begin at 11am outside the town hall. It will go through the town and end at the back of the Arndale Centre.