COUNCIL bosses and business leaders have hit back after a North West business magazine named Blackburn in a top ten list of the "grimmest" towns.

En, a weekly magazine with more than 12,000 readers in the region, put Blackburn on the list claiming it needed an urgent make-over, in an article entitled It's Grim Up North.

Next to a picture of a sex shop the article said Blackburn was a town "stuck in the 1970s" and had been "deserted by retailers to leave a trail of sex shops, charity outlets and kebab houses".

But council officials and business leaders have criticised the article.

Mike Murray, chairman of Lancashire Business Link, said: "I would very much disagree with the magazine's view in terms of how far we have come.

"Over the last ten years there has been a massive increase in new industrial estates bringing new business to the town.

"It has taken years to get away from the textile and mill industries, which does not happen over night.

"Ten years ago we were way behind Europe in terms of jobs and industry but when I have been to places like Germany they are all very impressed with industry in Blackburn.

"The magazine's view is way out of date and a bit provocative.

"I would challenge the editor of En and ask him what he would have done with the resources available to make the town better than what we have managed in the last ten years."

Blackburn MP Jack Straw said: "This is a silly article which only demonstrates how little the author must know about Blackburn. It hardly dignifies a response but for the fact that this magazine is apparently aimed at potential investors to the North West.

"Perhaps the author should actually come and see the reality of our vibrant and successful town before trading in ridiculous stereotypes of this sort."

Graham Burgess, executive director of regeneration, said: "It is clear that whoever wrote this article has never visited Blackburn."

But En editor Scott McCubbins defended the article and said he had visited the town.

He said: "The council in Blackburn wastes money on the wrong things, like anti-litter campaigns, while the town is going into decline quickly.

"I visited Blackburn at 3pm on a Tuesday afternoon and it was dead. The problem with people who criticise the article is that they do so without dealing with the problem. People could set up a fantastic business in Blackburn for a fraction of the cost of doing it elsewhere.

"If they did not want to live in Blackburn itself they could live in the Ribble Valley.

"The area has massive selling points that are not being taken advantage of. Blackburn has a low employment rate and surely there are people who, theoretically, are eager

to get a job. I would criticise people who sit on boards and do nothing but criticise people who raise faults."

Blackburn Rovers have also refuted a suggestion in the article that they advise players to live in Cheshire to "avoid being mobbed or gawped at".

Chief Executive John Williams said the club did not have a policy on suggesting where players should live.

The article, which also featured Blackpool and Wigan, asked people to vote for the town they thought most needs a make-over so it can be given a rebrand campaign by a top design agency.

Magazine aims at leaders

EN is a monthly regional business magazine - established 10 years ago - which looks at the world of industry and commerce in the North West.

It is part of the Manchester-based Excel Publishing group, which describes itself as one of the UK's leading independent publishers.

Editorial director Martin Regan said 14,000 copies of En were mailed direct to leaders of industry and other key decision-makers in the North West.

Today, Mr Regan said En editor Scott McCubbins (below) ad his full support.

"We can be irreverent, but behind that approach lies a serious message," he said.

"He made his choice of the towns needing a 'make-over' and we are sticking by them."

On the company's website, Excel boasts that it "prides itself on its authoritative and informed journalism".

The magazine hosts the biggest business awards outside of London.

McCubbins is 33 years old and has been editor for two years and at the magazine for five.

Originally from Glasgow he

is a former business and

media correspondent

for Scotland On


What the magazine said:


WE all know about the efforts being made to market the region's two main economic powerhouses of Manchester and Liverpool as destinations for tourists and leisure travellers.

Yet these two cities - and the North West's picturesque Lake District - already have more to offer in terms of culture, attractions and things to do than any other parts of the region.

Shouldn't we be spending the money on the areas that really need it? Those grim towns whose main streets are covered with broken glass and takeaway wrappers on a Sunday morning? The places full of dark foreboding, alleyways where the only greeting you'll receive from young locals is a friendly mugging, where the bus shelters overpower the senses with the aroma of cider and stale urine?

What about the sleepy backwaters where the local shops (for local people, presumably) still close in the afternoon?

In a rare fit of public spiritedness, EN has decided to identify the region's towns that are most in need of an image make-over.

BLACKBURN: Ironic, really, that one of Blackburn's major private employers is a company called Time Computers, because it lives up to its billing as 'The town that time forgot'.

Travelling fans from Manchester United have even taken to visiting Blackburn Rovers' Ewood Park stadium dressed in 1970s gear, as that is the era in which they feel the town is stuck.

Rumour is that the club itself advises players not to live locally and purchase houses in Cheshire if they want to avoid being mobbed or gawped at every time they nip out to buy a loaf of bread.

The town centre itself could serve as a pictorial definition of decline. Major retailers have deserted it, leaving behind a trail of sex shops, charity outlets, kebab houses and other hardy perennials that seem to be able to thrive in units that nobody else wants.

POPULATION: 137,470.

FAMOUS SONS: Jack Straw, Janice Battersby.

DISTINGUISHING FEATURES: Thwaites Brewery, The M65 -- Europe's second quietest motorway.