Plea to support Blackpool retailers in crisis

Richard Lefton who believes the council is not ding enough to support retailers in Blackpool
Richard Lefton who believes the council is not ding enough to support retailers in Blackpool

A prominent Blackpool retailer is urging the council to do more to support shops or face seeing a flood of closures.

Richard Lefton of Lefton’s Furniture Superstore said the resort’s retail offer was facing a crisis and called for efforts to clean up the streets and promote shopping.

He said while the council supported the tourism sector it had neglected town centre businesses.

Mr Lefton, pictured, said: “The council does not understand or care about retail. They shut the Prom, they have shut the roads for the tram works and it is crippling business.

"It is £30m thrown away as far as I am concerned. We are making it too difficult for people to come shopping here. The streets look a mess, there are intimidating beggars.

“Many times I have had to turn out drug takers and alcoholics from my customer parking garage and that is just not acceptable.

“Once a customer gets used to going somewhere else, like Manchester or Preston, they will not come back. We need to make it easy to choose Blackpool. A park and ride at, least would be a start.

“We have not invested enough. Altrincham used to have lots of empty shops but they turned it around and now they are queueing to open businesses there. Preston five years ago was dead, now there are lots of people in Fishergate.

“The town needs a retail champion. The council should have someone whose remit is to sell the town to big high street names and support independents to improve themselves. If it carries on like this, in five or six years there will be nothing.”

But councillor Gillian Campbell, Blackpool Council Deputy Leader, said: “We have well-documented plans for improving the town centre, evidenced by the number of development projects that have already been completed or will come to fruition over the next two years.

“These include the completion of a new conference centre at the Winter Gardens; new town centre hotels; an IMAX style cinema alongside additional retail and restaurant facilities at Houndshill; an integrated transport interchange at North Station and the improvement of key streets in the town centre through the Quality Corridors scheme.

“All of this is much-needed investment that will improve the visual appeal of the town centre and give businesses and shoppers more compelling reasons to come to the town centre.

“The council also plays an active role in the Town Centre Business Improvement District which was set up several years ago with a specific remit to improve and promote the town centre.

“We have been experimenting with Park and Ride but it is not something that we are looking at as a permanent option at the moment.

“In terms of tackling anti-social behaviour we recently agreed a new way or working with Lancashire Police. This partnership will see the frontline services of both organisations such as public protection and cleansing work even closer together to tackle the issues that matter to local residents and businesses.”