When news happens, text LT and your photos and videos to 80360. Or contact us by email or phone.
Column: Why I’m trying to protect town centres
The first television set I bought for our home in Blackburn, shortly after we’d moved in the mid-1980s, was from a store in the town centre.
My then young children were desperate that I got it set up straight away. As we had walked into town, there was nothing for it but to carry it back the half mile to where we lived. It was large, and very heavy. My shoulder ached for weeks afterwards.
Years later, when this television had finally given up the ghost, I decided on the easy option.
I purchased my new television from a store on the Whitebirk retail Park, between Blackburn and Accrington, and took it back home by car.
Now that I’m campaigning, with Hyndburn MP Graham Jones, for restrictions on what the stores there can sell to stay in force, does this make me a hypocrite?
“No”, is my answer. The current restrictions on the Whitebirk site limit the stores there to selling “bulky goods” only – items like carpets, furniture, electrical white goods – and televisions.
These restrictions were imposed by Hyndburn Council (oddly, this bit of Blackburn comes within their area, for historical reasons) to protect the town centres of both Accrington and Blackburn. Broadly they’ve worked.
When the owners of the site, Peel Holdings, tried to have the restrictions lifted in 2005 Hyndburn pushed back. Peel lost their appeal before a planning inquiry in 2008, with the inspector saying that this would have “a negative and harmful effect” on the two town centres.
Since they lost that appeal, Peel have resorted to technical wheezes to get round the very clear decisions of both the council and the inspector – submitting 29 separate, and apparently minor planning applications in three years, which they now say gives them a right to sell anything from this site.
If Peel succeed in this strategy, it will damage our town centres. As the retail expert Mary Portas has showed, they are the heart of all our communities – in a way that a few retail sheds on an arterial road can never be.