A major retail development on the outskirts of Chorley has been given final approval after councillors voted to support the scheme.
But one member said he feared a “catastrophic” impact on the town centre’s existing shops.
The plan for an outlet-style shopping village on land close to Botany Bay was passed by the council’s development control committee last month. The size of the scheme meant it also had to be given the green light by the government - which offered no objection.
However, at the final hurdle for the development - a vote at a meeting of the full council - deputy leader of the Conservative opposition group, Martin Boardman, painted a bleak picture of the future for shopping streets in the heart of the town.
“I am deeply concerned that [although] it might not have an immediate effect on our town centre, when shopping habits change - and they do - I fear the long-term impact could be catastrophic,” he said.
“I would prefer to see this application rejected as it stands and resubmitted, possibly with half the retail capacity.”
Cllr Boardman, who said he was speaking on his own behalf and not that of his group, also expressed concern that conditions attached to the planning permission - dictating the type of shops which would be permitted - could be whittled away.
But cabinet member Peter Walmsley said that “stringent” conditions - restricting retailers only to opening stores associated with the discounted ‘designer outlet’ format - would be enforced. And he rejected Cllr Boardman’s request for a rethink.
“The kinds of shops that [will come] are the kind we don’t currently have in Chorley town centre - and so should have a minimal impact,” Cllr Walmsley said.
“This is the sort of thing that will also bring people in from outside Chorley - and there will be a bus service linking the town centre with the outlet village.”
Cllr Walmsley also warned that a smaller shopping development - even if the applicant were interested in pursuing it - risked proving the end of the road for a series of highway upgrades which have already been pledged by the developer.
The improvements are designed to ease the effects of increased traffic from the outlet village as well as an associated housing and office development in the vicinity. More than 280 homes were granted planning permission last month.
A retail impact assessment conducted on behalf of the council concluded that recent changes to the project extending the Market Walk shopping centre in Chorley - and the recommitment of Marks and Spencer to the scheme - meant it was “difficult to argue that the [outlet] will have a significantly adverse impact on investment in the town centre”.
However, the report cautioned that the planned cinema and restaurants within the new Market Walk meant that it was “important to ensure that Botany Bay does not become a competing leisure destination. Overall, retail issues are finely balanced,” it noted.
In the final vote, Cllr Boardman abstained, along with two other members. Cllr Mark Perks voted against.