A NATIONAL budget shopping chain store has been ordered to close – hours before today’s planned official opening.

Council officers have said the Poundstretcher shop, on the Nova Scotia Retail Park, in Bolton Road, Blackburn, does not have planning permission and an immediate closure notice was served.

The store, which opened on Tuesday in the old Comet building, was still trading yesterday, a company spokesperson said.

It was unclear whether the store would be open today.

Andrew Lightfoot, deputy chief executive at Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “We have taken immediate enforcement action because the store does not have the correct planning permission to operate.

“We have been in contact with them to advise them and, despite not having permission, they have gone ahead and opened. If they had applied for perm-ission, it is extremely unlikely that we would have supported them in this location. This appears to be a deliberate tactic to avoid the planning process. It goes against our retail policies.”

Blackburn with Darwen’s Mayor, Coun Salim Mulla, has can-celled his plans to attend the official opening.

Poundstretcher was founded in 1981 and sells homewares ‘for families on a budget who don’t want to sacrifice quality, or style’.

But the store does not have planning permission for food, clothing and shoes, personal care products, or china, fancy goods and giftware, which the council said were spotted on sale during a visit to the premises.

The council said it had ‘invested heavily’ in regeneration of Blackburn town centre, and it is unlikely to grant permission retrospectively, leaving 28 jobs at risk.

In a letter to the company, chairman of the Blackburn Bus- iness Improvement District, Mark Smith, wrote: “The council is seriously concerned that your store has opened without any planning application, or even pre-application discussions being submitted and, as such, we have today issued a temporary stop notice requiring you to close the store for 28 days pen- ding resolution of the matter.”

A spokesperson for Poundstretcher, which has more than 400 stores across Britain, declined to comment.