When news happens, text LT and your photos and videos to 80360. Or contact us by email or phone.
Blackburn town centre to get five restaurants in rejuvenation bid
RADICAL plans have been unveiled to bolster the revival of Blackburn town centre with new restaurants and small independent shops.
Building on the £28million Cathedral Quarter development, the proposals concentrate on extending retail hours and creating a stronger night-time economy focused on eating, drinking and entertainment.
The Lancashire Telegraph can exclusively reveal the key proposals include five new restaurants with Bella Italia, Cafe Rouge and Pizza Express among the targets, more independent shops, free parking, and better car access to the central shopping area.
The Mall also announced that new stores including Schuh and Perfect Home would be moving in.
Council regeneration boss Maureen Bateson has ordered officials to produce a ‘radical’ new strategy for maintaining the redevelopment after the Cathedral Quarter is completed in 2016, drafting in internationally-famous Blackburn-born designer Wayne Hemingway.
A group of business leaders, including Coffee Exchange boss Mark Smith and Mall General manager Loraine Jones, are set to create a ‘Business Improvement District’ using firms’ cash to boost the retail hub with small shops, environmental improvements and advertising to draw in customers.
Andrew Dewhurst, director of Maple Grove Developments, which is behind the Cathedral Quarter scheme, said it would provide three new restaurants by 2015.
These would be below the new Premier Inn, the refectory of the new clergy building, and underneath the first of two office blocks.
Coun Bateson said she was actively seeking major national chains to open two more eateries in the former Bentley’s pub and the old Corn Exchange near the town hall.
Officials are also devising options to boost the area, including cutting rents for empty borough properties and reducing business rates for other premises in run-down districts, particularly Sudell Cross, Northgate, and King William Street.
They want Whalley Range bazaar to develop into East Lancashire’s answer to Manchester’s ‘Curry Mile’ in Rusholme.
Other proposals include free council car parking, a jump-on/jump-off town centre circular bus, and a rejig of Blackburn’s orbital road and one-way system to go with its completion linking in the Wainwright Bridge next year.
This complements public transport improvements including a new £5 million bus station on the old market site at Ainsworth Street and refurbishment of the Boulevard railway station.
Council and business leaders are also working with Eastern Division police Chief Superintendent Bob Eastwood to tackle street drinking and anti-social behaviour in the town centre as the Cathedral Quarter building work goes ahead next month to ensure the area is safe and attractive for visitors.
Coun Bateson said: “We are looking at radical options for the future to make Blackburn town centre the jewel in the crown of the East Lancashire economy. We are talking to national restaurant and pub chains about coming to available premises here to kick-start the night-time economy.”
She revealed long-running talks with Sainsbury’s and Thwaites to put a superstore across the old market site and Star Brewery have reached a ‘sensitive stage’.
Mr Smith, who welcomed the council’s review, said: “At last our political leaders are finally listening to business.”
Mr Hemingway said: “I have been asked to come up with some ideas for the future of my home town centre.”
Ms Jones revealed The Mall will soon see new stores, including Schuh and Perfect Home, and the relocation of existing outlets Toymaster and Shoezone to Victoria Court.
She said: “We can only extend our opening hours if there are more people coming to the centre and staying to eat and drink later.”
Chief Supt Eastwood said: “We are working with our partners to tackle street drinking and anti-social behaviour and will continue to so as the redevelopment of the town centre proceeds.”
East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce chief executive Mike Damms said: “A vibrant Blackburn town centre can play a crucial role in the revival of the whole of East Lancashire’s consumer economy.”
Tory regeneration spokesman Alan Cottam said: “Blackburn is on the way to having the most compact and complete town centre in the country which will attract shoppers and visitors.”
Comments are closed on this article.