COUNCILLORS are calling for Rawtenstall's specialist shops in the cobbled Bank Street to be safeguarded when the town centre is totally transformed.

Consultants are working withRossendale Council to create an action plan for the centre alongside a separate £30million revamp being led by the Hurstwood Group.

And the Rossendale-based developers Hurstwood today revealed they had opened talks with High Street retail and leisure companies after submitting the largest planning application in the history of Rawtenstall.

The company has since been working with a number of commercial property agents to draw up a list of potential new names for their developments.

Hurstwood Group chairman Stephen Ashworth said: "The agents represent some of the biggest names on the high street and we have been able to make significant progress.

"They now want to have a chance to look at the detail of the plans. If everything goes to plan, we hope to be able to release the names of the people we are talking to after the Easter period."

But Lancashire County Council leader Hazel Harding said it was important to ensure the specialist shops remained in the town centre.

She said: "The niche shops in Bank Street attract shoppers from miles and miles away. It's important that we do what we can to protect that."

Justin Anderson, of Manchester-based consultants Donaldson's, which is working with the council, said: "We do recognise that Bank Street gives Rawtenstall its character so we don't want to move away from that."

Jane Healey-Brown of Arups, which has drawn up the masterplan, said: "The main re-development is part of the Valley Centre.

That gives us the best of both worlds as there will be the specialist shops and national retailers."