National title eludes Colne

Mike Worsdall flying the flag at Vintage Tools at Colne Market
Mike Worsdall flying the flag at Vintage Tools at Colne Market

Colne was pipped at the post by picture postcard towns in its bid for the title of the Great British High Street’s best market town.

But far from being downhearted, traders and council staff were trilled to reach the finals of the competition, and say the opposition had better watch out in future.

Their outstand work was recognised at an awards ceremony in London when Colne was held up as an example to others for its innovative ideas and hard work.

Regeneration officer Paul Collins was presented with the runner-up certificate at the event in Admiralty House. The third place also comes with a £500 prize for Colne Town Centre Forum.

“To get to the finals was an excellent achievement,” said Mr Collins. “We were competing in the market town category which had the highest number of entrants, and the highest number of votes.”

The Best Market Town title went to Helmsley, the only market town in the North York Moors National Park. Chipping Norton, in the Cotswolds, took second spot. Both had extensive social media campaigns to gather support.

A record number of 230 high streets entered the competition as a whole and nearly 200,000 votes were cast across seven categories.

Said Mr Collins: “People got behind it and even though we didn’t win it was a big achievement. It was a nice day when the judges came to see Colne, but unfortunately they came on a Tuesday, so not many shops were open and, of course, it wasn’t market day.

“Even so, we were able to give them a presentation about the work we have done, and are continuing to do in Colne, and they were impressed. There is nothing to stop us entering next year.”

The judges singled out Colne after hearing about and seeing improvements that have transformed old arcades and attracted shoppers back to the high street. Free parking encouraged more people into town centre and family-friendly events, such as food markets, music, and cycling races boosted local pride in the community and attracted visitors.

Exactly how the £500 prize money will be spent is likely to be a topic when the town centre forum next meets in January. One idea floated is to use some of it to produce a town centre map.

Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson was also at the awards ceremony. He said: “Speaking to the judges it was a very close run thing and they were really impressed by the progress Colne has made over recent years.

“I would like to congratulate Colne Town Council and all the traders who got involved in the competition. Roll on next year - when I’m sure Colne will be back! Or of course Barnoldswick who won in 2014!”