Town centre forum split over UCLAN cash fund bid

Lytham town centre.

Lytham town centre.

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Traders could soon benefit from advice from business experts nationwide after Fylde Town Centres Forum approved a £46,000 bid from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN).

The forum was established in spring to distribute £100,000 of High Street Innovation Fund cash given to the borough by Whitehall. It has six members representing businesses and town councils from St Annes, Lytham and Kirkham.

The two-year UCLAN project, which involves North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, is scheduled to start in December 2013 – if Whitehall approves another £80,000.

If the £80,000 is approved, the project will start with the appointment of a retail coach who will link traders to nationwide experts in retail, marketing, internet development, financing and the staging of community events.

But the UCLAN bid split the Forum members. While Lytham and Kirkham declared themselves very much in favour, St Annes representatives claimed it was ‘merely a dressed up version of external consultants – something we agreed from the outset we would not do’ and also said they had concerns about its scope and its lack of ability to deliver any firm sustainable legacy.

But forum member Andrew Fallow, chairman of Lytham Business Partnership, said: “This is a great opportunity for businesses to build contacts and connections with each other and with experts across the country.”

Coun Elaine Silverwood from Kirkham added: “If this had been a dressed-up consultation exercise, I would have been the first to criticise it but I am very much in favour of it. It sounds like great value for money.”

A spokesman for St Annes Town Council added: “While St Annes Town Council and the Chamber of Trade did not support the bid because of concerns over the use of consultants, the project scope and the ability to deliver a sustainable economic legacy, we wish the project every success in its aim to enhance Fylde businesses.”