BUSINESSES across Blackburn town centre are using a sophisticated system to accurately count the number of visitors for the first time.

The ‘footfall counters’, which will be installed at 43 premises, use hi-tech software to register individuals entering the main retail area and where they go.

The detailed data will provide vital information as the £33million Cathedral Quarter development and new £5million bus station are built in the next 18 months. It will be fed in to Blackburn with Darwen Council’s 12-point blueprint to revive the town centre.

The scheme, costing £12,000 in the first year then £8,000 annually, is financed by Blackburn Improvement District’s budget of £1.5million raised by a special levy on firms.

BID put aside £90,000 for 'Marketing and Promoting a Vibrant Town Centre'.

The ‘Shoppertrak’ system is the latest and most sophisticated on the market. It is compatible with existing systems used by The Mall, Blackburn Market and the Townsmoor Retail Park. The council had to abandon its own ageing and less reliable system because of lack of cash to replace it.

The devices will be in public buildings, shops large and small, solicitors’ offices, pubs and cafes. The 43 will monitor individuals passing windows with information collated by central software to measure how developments affect visitors.