PROGRESS has been made on plans to redevelop one of the 'jewels' in the heart of Accrington.

Hyndburn Council cabinet members backed proposals to push on with a scheme to make changes to part of the indoor market hall.

One of the potential proposals is to remove some traditional stalls and replace them with small food and drink outlets to create a social hub.

Now the scheme has been approved in principle, council leader Cllr Miles Parkinson will meet with his Conservative group counterpart, Cllr Dobson, and new Hyndburn MP Sara Britcliffe to discuss ideas which will help form a concrete proposal to reinvigorate the market hall.

Cllr Parkinson stressed it was essential that a final scheme was worked up across parties and with input from the public as well as market traders to ensure it was not just the vision of his ruling Labour group.

Further proposals to remove the outside pavilion and canopy and kiosks facing Peel Street and redevelop the area to offer additional short stay car parking were also approved.

Cllr Marlene Haworth raised concerns that a food hall was not the way forward.

She said: “The report talks about opening a food hall and you don’t have to go far back in the history of this town to when the one in the Arndale Centre failed miserably.

“I’m very concerned that this idea could fail because of the lack of footfall in the town centre and the number of restaurants and pubs that already do cheap food.

“We ought to look very carefully at getting involved in something like this which, if it fails, we are up the swanny without a paddle.”

Portfolio holder with responsibility for the market hall, Cllr Paul Cox, stressed the idea for a food hall was not set in stone.

He said: “The whole point of this report is to start a debate and conversation to find a solution for the market hall.

“The social hub is just a broad idea about what we could possibly do in there. It’s not just about us turning the market hall into a food hub, it’s looking at our options at coming up with a solution that creates a sustainable future for the venue.”

Council leader, Cllr Miles Parkinson, said: “The market hall is the jewel in Hyndburn and whatever we create there, it’s not just for me to make a statement about my vision because I want everyone to come together so we can show the Government we are willing to spend substantial money to get this right.

“It’s about everyone from stakeholders to businesses to shoppers and the youth of today.

"We want to move forward and we are prepared to spend a substantial amount of money, about £1million in total, to do it.”