A TOP chef has backed a plan to boost East Lancashire’s ‘food economy’.

Michelin-starred Nigel Howarth said he welcomed the prospect of more support from regeneration and education leaders to ensure the area punches above its weight in its offering of restaurants, gastro pubs and food producers.

East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce boss Mike Damms will spend the first half of this year looking at ways of improving the situation.

He is likely to suggest a strategy aimed at boosting co-operation between restaurateurs and suppliers, trying to make food retailers better and talking to colleges.

And the scheme has been backed by Mr Howarth, who runs Northcote in Langho and gastro pubs the Clog and Billycock, near Blackburn, and the Three Fishes, near Whalley.

He said: “We have argued long and hard that there have been missed opportunities when it comes to the area’s food economy.

"I think it would be very useful if there was some kind of thinktank as to how we can take it forward.

“Education is a massive thing too. We work with local colleges on training but we could do with a bit more help in finding the right people to work for us.

“Places like Northcote bring nationwide exposure to the area but with a bit of co-ordination we could be really dynamic.”

Mr Damms will report back to regeneration bosses , including East Lancashire’s six council leaders, later in the year.

He said: “We have got a really excellent food offering but it is desperately under-developed from an economic point of view.

“We are light in numbers in the type of jobs that support this part of economy when really we should have lots more.

“The truth is that there is an economic development opportunity that is being missed.”

Northcote remains the only Michelin-starred eatery in East Lancashire.

However, it is hoped that more work could transform the area into a food paradise.