Council bosses have urged residents not to lose faith in the development plans for Chorley’s Market Walk despite a major setback.
Town councillors approved proposals to suspend works on the site after flagship tenant Marks & Spencer called a halt on new outlets.
Council leader Alistair Bradley said the pause would give the town hall a chance to reassess the plans with further announcements expected in January.
Concerns had been voiced that works are affecting town centre trade due to the loss of car parking spaces.
Related article: Calls for council to reinstate car park
Labour leader Coun Bradley said more spaces will be brought into use in the coming weeks.
His deputy, Coun Peter Wilson told this week’s full council meeting: “The latest announcement by M&S is a setback but that’s all it is, you don’t derail all your town centre plans, you don’t rip up all the masterplan and say ‘that’s no good’ because M&S may not come.
"We didn’t design this for M&S, we didn’t redevelop the town centre for M&S. We did it to give the town centre a lifeline for years to come. If they don’t come, someone else does. Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture and what this is all about and will be for years to come.”
The £12.9m redevelopment was due to start this month but the M&S shock followed the earlier setback that TK Maxx had also pulled out.
Conservative opposition leader Coun Alan Cullens said his party’s position is to oppose any development that would create less parking at the Flat Iron site.
Prior to Tuesday's meeting, trader representative John Brennand handed a petition with 200 signatures to Coun Bradley calling on the council to reinstate the parking spaces on the Flat Iron site and halt the Market Walk development.
He said: “I’ve been trading for 47 years, that car park is the heart of the town centre. Take it away, it will stop people coming to the town centre and kill businesses.
“We don’t mind development, you can build your cinemas, your M&S stores, but in the right places. Don’t get rid of the car parking spaces.
“You’re making yourselves look the laughing stock of Chorley.”
However, fellow trader Malcolm Allen, chair of the Chorley Traders' Alliance, said: "Whilst the recent news of M&S's decision....is a setback, I believe that the town centre traders wish to see the overall scheme continue to be developed out to make our town centre fit for the future.
"We have a thriving town centre and work closely with the council to ensure that shoppers can have the best facilities that Chorley has to offer."