HYNDBURN Council leader Miles Parkinson was accused of “leading Accrington to rack and ruin” after he said the town centre shopping area would inevitably shrink in the future.
The accusation came from Tory group chief Peter Britcliffe, who said that, as always, his Labour opponent had got it wrong.
The angry clash came as the borough’s ruling cabinet debated the Labour leadership’s latest plans to revive Accrington town centre and its retail sector.
It was sparked when Mr Parkinson proposed closing the section of Blackburn Road, between Union Street and Church Street, to all traffic and making the section from Union Street to Eagle Street one-way, westwards.
Coun Parkinson said the move was vital to allow the revival of the main shopping area to go ahead, alongside the move of Accrington bus station from Peel Street to Crawshaw Street, allowing that site to become a car park for the adjoining market hall and shopping area.
He told the meeting: “With the arrival of internet shopping, Accrington town centre will shrink.
“It is inevitable that the town centre will shrink in the next ten years.
“With changing shopping habits, we must look at developing it for leisure, recreation, and social going out.”
Coun Britcliffe disagreed and objected strongly to the proposed road closure and one-way section.
He said: “I am desperately disappointed in this. You have this wrong.
“I think the last thing Accrington town centre needs is making it more difficult for traffic to get in. It is more important to make it accessible to traffic so people come there.
“You are leading Accrington to rack and ruin.
“You are going to be remembered as the man who brought Accrington town centre down.”
Coun Britcliffe said there was no point in providing extra car parking in Peel Street if no cars could get there. Coun Parkinson hit back, saying the development of public transport was vital to the young and elderly, who would be the main users of the town centre.
He said that with the rise of internet buying, Accrington’s shopping centre had to concentrate on those elements which it alone could provide – leisure and sports facilities and social areas, along with exploiting the heritage of its fine historic buildings, and the Accrington Pals.