COUNCILLORS heard impassioned pleas for the retention of the Discover Pendle centre at Boundary Mill at a budget meeting of Pendle Council’s Executive.
The council’s management team had earmarked the centre for potential closure and relaunch it inside the main store in a report as part of £1m in savings the council is faced with in the next year.
But Titanic Museum curator Nigel Hampson and local walk leader Norman Mitchell pleaded with the Conservative Executive not to close it.
Mr Hampson said the facility had been used by 150,000 people last year.
“Not a lot of people are aware of how much money the centre brings into East Lancashire on a daily basis,” he said. “People are directed to all sorts of activities across the area and the benefits to business are astronomical. When the museum was opened, we aimed at having 5,000 visitors in the first year and we are already halfway there.
“The centre provides a fantastic service - if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Mr Mitchell said: “The people there give practical advice you cannot get from a leaflet. The centre is the largest outlet of its kind outside London and has a large footfall, open seven days a week. If you stop it, everyone will suffer. It’s a false economy.”
Council leader Coun. Mike Blomeley said the recommendations came from the management team and councillors had not made any decisions yet.
“If Coun. Eyre (the portfolio holder for leisure) were here, I am sure he would be very much in favour of keeping it open and it has never been our intention to close it. All we have considered is if we can get the same useful service at a little less cost.”
Coun.Tony Beckett said: “There is no doubt it is a valuable asset. The portfolio holder should meet with Boundary Mill to find out what they have in mind.
“The centre provides a valuable service to visitors to Pendle and if all we are going to get is a card table with leaflets on then it’s no deal”.
Liberal Democrat councillors at the meeting pledged their group’s budget proposals would retain the centre in its existing format.
Coun. David said: “The centre opened four or five years ago and has gone from strength to strength.
“It was set up to promote tourism and business and has done that in a magniicent way. It should be kept as a separate entity.”
And Coun. Tony Greaves said the council’s Colne and District Committee had voted unanimously to support its retention - a motion proposed by Conservative councillor Mike Calvert.
The council’s budget meeting on Thursday night will decide whether to accept the management team’s proposal.