TOWN centre benches have been removed in a bid to deter drunks from gathering in a busy shopping area.

Hyndburn Council chiefs made the decision to temporarily remove benches at the entrance to Accrington Market Hall after a violent incident last week.

The decision has drawn criticism from shoppers, who say the benches should remain for those who need to rest.

Police have listed the problem of street drinking in the no alcohol zone, as one of their top priorities for Accrington Town Centre over recent weeks.

However Hyndburn Council have gone a step further and removed the benches, on the pedestrianised area of Blackburn Road. Deputy leader Clare Pritchard, who oversees the town centre’s regeneration, said the decision was made after a fight broke out outside the market hall.

Coun Pritchard said: “The decision to remove the benches is on a trial basis. It is to encourage people drinking there to find somewhere else to go. We will then put the benches back.

“The incident last week where there was fighting was very disturbing for shoppers. It is a problem and we have just got to deal with it.”

Opposition leader Peter Britcliffe said: “It is nonsense. That area is an alcohol free zone and the police have powers to move people on. It is being dealt with the wrong way.”

Shopper Jack Smith, 82, said: “They should get rid of the drunks, not the benches. They’ve got it backwards. People need somewhere to sit and if people are being violent or a nuisance they should get banged up”.

Stallholder Susan Fairless, 62, from Haslingden, said: “On market day there’s lots of people who like to sit there, especially on a nice day. People like to watch the world go by. When drunk people ruin that, they should be moved on.”