DEMOLITION of Rawtenstall’s dilapidated shopping centre has finally been given the green light.

Rossendale Council’s Development Control Committee passed plans to knock down the Valley Centre and controversially create a public realm and events space.

Representations at the specially scheduled meeting at the council’s chamber in Futures Park, Bacup saw representations from the secretary of Rawtenstall’s Chamber of Trade, Keith Pilkington and Rossendale Civic Society secretary Cathy Fishwick.

Both organisations welcomed the demolition but were apprehensive at the interim plan to create a public space in the town’s conservation area.

Cathy Fishwick said: “The council is very lucky to gain permission from the English Heritage Society in a conservation area to knock down a building and not have to immediately replace it.

“English Heritage have been very kind to allow the usual step of this interim plan.

“I am pleased the differing levels will be kept within the site but I would like to see materials taken from the demolition reused to improve the aesthetics of the space.

“Finally, it is clear that we all have to be in this project together to make sure Rawtenstall does not get another half baked, incomplete scheme.”

The council controversially purchased the Valley centre in November after voting to redirect money borrowed to build a new swimming pool in Haslingden.

Scores of protesters attended several council meetings to try and change councillors minds but they were unsuccessful.

Leader of Rossendale Council, Coun Alyson Barnes said: “This is a pivotal part in the redevelopment of our borough. We are doing something really positive to improve how the town centre looks and feels and I think all can agree it’s a really exciting time.

“The planning permission being granted allows the project to move from planning to doing; and very soon we’ll be able to see the physical changes happening.”

The contract for the demolition work is expected to be awarded within the next few days, allowing a timetable for the works to be drawn up.

As demolition begins, the council will continue to work with community groups to gain further ideas for events to be held in the space, and what can go in it, including temporary public art and fruit, vegetable and flower beds.