An emergency six-month package to give Chorley’s dwindling town centre a boost has been drawn up.
The short-term measures set to come into effect include:
n reopening Market Street to traffic
n lowering car parking charges in the town centre
n creating a new 70-space car park, and
n handing cash incentives to existing businesses
The plans are part of a wider, long-term package to reinvent the town, but bosses at Chorley Council said they could not afford to wait 12 months to reveal the large-scale plan.
Instead, they said needed to take swift action now.
Coun Peter Wilson, deputy leader of Chorley Council, said the council had met with traders in the town to discuss what urgent action they needed to see.
He said: “Our vision is all about the economy.
“In the longer term, we are looking at a much bigger development, but we also need these short term measures that will help people come to visit Chorley.
“We have got someone drawing up plans to reopen Market Street now. The work has been commissioned and we are looking at doing it for a trial period, perhaps for a year.
“We are not looking at having it as a main thoroughfare, but what we want to do is allow people to park for half-an-hour and pop in to do their shopping.”
Traders held a mock funeral for the town in protest about the road closure when it was introduced more than 12 years ago.
The idea to reopen the street was again mooted in January by Chorley Traders’ Alliance, who included it in their plan of how to get Chorley through the recession.
Chorley Council, under the previous administration, said in 2010 that it would not make a decision on the pedestrianised area until it was clear how the Asda development at the top of Market Street would affect the town.
Car parking charges are also being looked at in the wake of Blackburn with Darwen Council announcing it would waive all parking charges on Saturdays in a bid to boost high street trade, a move recommended by high street guru Mary Portas.
At the moment, it costs 70p to park on Chorley’s main Flat Iron car park for one hour, and £1 for three hours.
Council bosses said they wanted to introduce more graded parking charges.
Coun Wilson said: “These are all short-term measures being discussed now, in consultation with shoppers and traders, that could happen in the next six months.
“We are trying to increase the turnover on the Flat Iron car park. We want to make it more attractive.
“We want to introduce charges that will be more graded, so it might be 30p for an hour and more expensive for longer term stays over four hours.
“We also want to create 70 car parking spaces behind the former McDonald’s site on Gillibrand Street. It’s an absolute mess, a disgrace. It makes the town centre look shabby.
“We want to tidy up the units at the front and create a car park behind as a short term plan while we are working on plans to redevelop the whole site.”
There will also be more money put into the existing business grant scheme, and the remit extended so it reaches businesses on Pall Mall and Bolton Street, with particular emphasis on money being easier to get for the long-established traders.
Coun Wilson said: “Chorley is a traditional market town. We want to capitalise on that and make Chorley a place people want to come.”
Malcolm Allen, chair of Chorley Traders’ Alliance, said: “These things are urgent, we need it.
“We were asked to come up with at least five things we as traders thought would help the town quickly.
“Opening Market Street was the top of the list, car parking charges was the second, and doing something with the former McDonald’s site was the third.
“These sorts of things, especially the car parking, are bringing us in line with other towns.”