It is full steam ahead for improvements to Chorley town centre after councillors gave the green light to press ahead with plans.
Work on the Market Walk extension had been put on hold before Christmas when tenant Marks and Spencer announced it was pulling out of the deal.
Councillors came together on Tuesday, January 23 to vote on whether the development should go ahead or whether work should stop altogether and the Flat Iron car park be reinstated. Following a debate a majority of members of Chorley Council, owners of the shopping centre, voted to press on with a redesign of the original layout. The £16 million investment is set to bring a shopping area with a cinema, restaurants, retailers and a new decked car park to accommodate an increase in shoppers.
Leader of Chorley Council, councillor Alistair Bradley said: “It was important we took time to reflect on the progress that had been made but by the very nature of projects like this it is going to change and we have to manage that by adapting and amending our approach just as residents would do in the course of their own interests.
“It is brilliant news for the borough that we can now get on and deliver all the exciting elements that will give our town centre a long term future and broaden its appeal to visitors.
“We’ve learnt lessons from what we’ve been doing over the last few months and we’ve responded to comments and suggestions from traders and shoppers, particularly around parking, to ensure the progress we make is in the best interests of the town centre."
During the meeting the Labour group came under fire from the Conservatives for pushing to continue with the improvements because of the risk involved in the build. However when asked how they would improve the town centre members of the Conservatives did not suggest alternatives.
Following the vote councillor Alan Cullens, leader of the Conservative Group: "The ruling party have committed the residents of Chorley to 50 years of debt based on high risk assumptions.
"This level of financial input will seriously affect the ability of future administrations to improve education, create jobs and invest in other projects.
"We have consistently voted against this scheme as we do not believe building on the Flat Iron is the right thing to do and will seriously affect our existing traders and traditional market offer."
The updates to the plans over the last few weeks include:
· Marks and Spencer has approached the council again as bosses say they still want to bring a store to Chorley. Discussions are on-going
· Firm interest from another three businesses to complement the already-secured Reel Cinemas
· A decked car park will be built on Friday Street/Portland Street creating an additional 149 spaces
· The Royal Oak building will be demolished in the coming weeks to create an extra 28 parking spaces
· The proposals to create a civic square and relocate the United Reformed Church have been re-prioritised to allow delivery of the extension and associated improvements to the appearance of the town centre first
· A commitment to undertake a consultation with market traders and visitors to the town to see how we can evolve the markets to make the most of the wider improvements
It is expected the new development would be open in late 2019 in time for the Christmas shopping period.