It was reported in 1996 that a major town centre improvement in Burnley could be jeopardised by blockbuster retail and leisure plans for Whitebirk, councillors have been warned. Town hall chiefs fear the enormous shopping and fun development proposed for a 90-acre site just off the M65, would draw investment and visitors away from surrounding towns. And that could hit Burnley, which had just completed a £12 million town centre improvements and planned a similar-sized scheme in the central area.
A report to Burnley planners this week warns of the implications, saying: "Improvements to Burnley town centre could be compromised by the scheme." Councillors are being urged to object strongly on grounds that the plan would harm the vitality and viability of existing town centres. Burnley traders were also expected to voice concerns over the Whitebirk bid which envisages non-food retail stores in addition to the many already on the site. The proposals, on a site earmarked only for industrial development, include a cinema, bowling, bingo, fast food and health and fitness centres.
Burnley has already lodged an objection to a 15-acre development plan to create a multiplex cinema, bowling alley and nightclub on nearby land at Greenbank Leisure Park, Rishton. That proposal was "frozen" by the North West Government office because it contravenes the Local Plan. Officers say the latest proposal would prejudice the development of a thriving evening economy in local town centres. They add the developer had failed to demonstrate that all potential town centre development options have been assessed before opting to develop an out-of-town site.
Lancashire Evening Telegraph, Tuesday 3rd December 1996.