A GOVERNMENT grant aimed at boosting a town centre ‘was never going to be a magic wand,’ an MP has said.

Andrew Stephenson, Pendle MP, made the comments as it was revealed almost 1,000 shops had disappeared from 12 towns involved in the Mary Portas, High Street Innovation Fund.

Nelson, along with the other town’s across the country was awarded £100,000, which was aimed at getting people to shop locally, supported by retail guru Mary Portas.

Mr Stephenson said the money was never going to fix the issues overnight.

Cllr Mohammed Iqbal, leader of Pendle Council, said no more than 10 shops had been lost since the funding was handed out.

But the survey carried out by the Local Data Company found there had been a net loss of 969 retail units in the five years nationally.

This was a drop of 17 per cent and the equivalent of one shop closing every 22 days.

Mr Stephenson said the town centre faced lots of challenges.

He said: “The money was never going to be a magic wand and fill the empty shops in Nelson, but it did make people rethink the town centre.

“Another issue for Nelson was the Pendle Rise shopping centre, it was in receivership for many years which meant a lot of the shops were empty.

“The fact people drive past Nelson on the motorway, but have to drive through Colne’s town centre means Colne gets more passing trade and footfall.

“The money was not going to solve all the problems, but I think we need to look towards the future and with the addition of Costa Coffee and others, Nelson is filling its shops.”

The other town’s to receive the money were Bedford, Croydon, Dartford, Greater Bedminster, Liskeard, Margate, Market Rasen, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Stockport, Stockton-on-Tees and Wolverhampton.

Cllr Iqbal said the money was used as grants to help attract businesses to the town.

He said: “The money also helped fund the Nelson Food Festival which became a success and saw 9,000 people a year turn up.

“The money at the time was a good idea but economic conditions made it hard for people to come.

“Over the past two years I have seen progress within the town centre, we have seen Costa Coffee, Peacocks and Home Bargains move in.

“Nelson is on the up, I made economic development one of my priorities and aim to do the very best to help attract more businesses to the town.”