A number of calls were made this week for Pendle Borough Council to use a compulsory purchase order to gain control of the site.
One councillor said the owners of the shopping mall were looking for an ‘absolutely stupid figure’ to sell and claimed the problem was dragging down the town.
The topic was discussed at the borough’s Nelson, Brierfield and Reedley Committee.
Pendle Rise has changed ownership a number of times over recent years and is currently owned by a company called Future Properties Limited, according to a new draft Nelson Masterplan report produced for Pendle Borough Council.
The draft masterplan has been written by three outside planning and regeneration consultancies. It states that Pendle Rise shopping centre must be given a new purpose and needs public sector intervention to bring about change. It says Pendle Rise is a top priority.
The Nelson masterplan for the next 25-30 years is designed to assist with short-term funding opportunities, such as the recently-awarded £25million Government’s Town Deal Fund, and also longer-term planning, development and funding opportunities.
The Nelson, Brierfield and Reedley Committee was asked to give feedback on the masterplan for the borough council’s powerful Policy and Resources Committee.
Speaking at the Nelson committee, County Coun. Azhar Ali said: “These are really important issues for Nelson. I and other councillors have sat on various committees over the years and a lot of good work has been done for Nelson.
“However, the opportunity this masterplan gives to Pendle Council is unique and perhaps one of the last. If we get it wrong, we will live with it for a long time.
“There used to be a real buzz about the town but it’s not the same now. Other towns are very different. Burnley Borough Council is buying the Charter Walk shopping centre and developing the Pioneer Place leisure complex.
"Unless we do something radical in Nelson, we will be debating the same old things in years to come. But Nelson needs something different to Burnley or Colne.
“I would urge councillors to visit Droylsden town centre near Manchester. They have got an IKEA furniture store nearby in Ashton but Droylsden now has a new well-being centre, a bowling alley and other leisure facilities. People are going there for leisure.
“We cannot allow Pendle Borough Council to sit back. The old bus station multi-storey car park was demolished and now is an eyesore. If the company which owns Pendle Rise mall sells off the buildings in bits then that will be a difficult situation. We can’t just sit on a consultant's report.
“I have looked at the Nelson report which highlights the same old stuff such as deprivation. We need to use our powers with compulsory purchase orders. We can use CPOs to buy houses but are not prepared to use the powers to buy a shopping centre? If we make bold moves then we can do things.”
Labour Coun. Mohammad Iqbal, who is a former leader of the council, said: “This ‘elephant in the room’ situation has been going on for two or three years.
"The Pendle Rise owners are not willing sellers. The way the centre has been ground down needs urgent action. We need to get Pendle Borough Council to exercise its CPO powers and repossess Pendle Rise. Unless we do that, we cannot sort out other things for Nelson.
“A compulsory purchase order could go two ways. Inspectors could agree with us about the mall’s value or they could agree with the Pendle Rise owners about their estimation, which is an absolutely stupid figure.
“I’ve seen the owner’s value. I’ve been privy to it but I won’t mention it here in public. I would urge a CPO and the funding could be sorted out. We have an unwilling seller who is dragging the town down."
He added: “There are opportunities. The government is big on the Levelling-Up agenda. If they are serious then they need to pump-price some of these projects.”
Councillors responses will go to the Policy and Resources Committee which meets later this month.