Small East Lancashire towns facing 'disastrous situation' unless more help given

A "disastrous situation" awaits small towns in East Lancashire following the coronavirus crisis unless more help is given to small independent businesses, a local peer has told the House of Lords.
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Speaking in a short debate about the potential impact on unemployment of closures of stores such as Debenhams and Arcadia, Liberal Democrat Lord Tony Greaves spoke of the impact of Covid restrictions on smaller towns such as Colne “where most of the high street consists of small, independently owned shops, many of which are in a disastrous situation.”

Commenting on remarks that high streets have to be turned into something else Lord Greaves, who is also a Pendle borough councillor for Waterside Ward in Colne, said: “We do not want to close down our high street, we want to keep it going and expand it.”

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“What are the government doing to make sure that these small shops, independently owns, will be able to survive and thrive after Covid?”

Market Street in ColneMarket Street in Colne
Market Street in Colne

The Conservative Government Minister Lord Callanan said in response: “I am delighted to hear that the noble Lord is speaking up for Colne and for many other high streets, because they play a critical role in our smaller towns. We have brought forward £81.5m. from the £3.6 billion towns funds to kickstart local investment projects of the exact kind that he refers to.”

Lord Greaves said afterwards: “I don’t know what help this is to our local towns such as Barnoldswick and Colne, but it’s peanuts anyway spread around the whole country. I fear that the big shops – the supermarkets and the like – are doing okay out of Covid. But many of the small businesses that form the heart of our towns are being forgotten about.

“The grants available to small businesses are inadequate, and many self-employed people are falling between the cracks. I shall continue to press Ministers on these matters.”