COUNCIL bosses have relaxed rules banning political canvassing in the heart of Hyndburn.

A proposal went before Hyndburn Council’s cabinet proposing to allow political canvassing on Broadway in Accrington and Great Harwood town square.

Political canvassing in both locations has been banned for a number of years but now senior figures at the council say the restriction is no longer needed.

Leader of the council, Cllr Miles Parkinson, said: “This will give politicians the chance to press the flesh, kiss babies and give their manifesto a good airing.

“Democracy is a good thing and this gives political parties the opportunity to exercise their rights.

“When it comes to campaigning, we don’t really want officers going around chasing off the smaller parties because they usually set up on Broadway.

“It’s a suck it and see approach but there is legislation to cover people peddling views which are unpalatable to the extreme.

“In a democracy these days it’s hard enough to engage with the general population and if people want to stand and try and talk to them, that’s fine.

“We don’t want extreme views expressed and there is legislation to protect against that.”

Conservative group leader Cllr Tony Dobson said: “The ban was brought in when there were fears politics was becoming more and more polarising and when you think about where we are as a country now, I do wonder whether you’re opening a door you’ll wish in the future you had never opened.”

Legal services manager Susan Hedges said: “Broadway and the town square are popular spaces and the council wants to make the best use that it can of these areas to benefit the residents of Hyndburn.

“The council is keen to encourage activities, events and entertainment on areas such as Broadway and the town square and now intends to widen the approved uses of both these areas.

“Currently charitable and leisure activities are generally permitted in these areas, subject to having been given the appropriate permissions and licences.

“At the time that this decision was taken by the council it was considered to be a proportionate and reasonable approach.

“As there are have been significant changes in the political climate over recent years it is not considered the prohibition is still required.

“The council has approached the company that manages the letting of space on Broadway.

“The detail as to how requests for political canvassing on Broadway will be processed and managed has not yet been agreed with the company.

“The council’s executive director for environment, Steve Riley, will finalise this process in respect of both Broadway and the town square.

“The council could continue to prohibit political canvassing on Broadway and the town square but this may mean not using these public spaces to their full potential.”