PLANS lodged in a bid to attract permanent tenants to a Blackburn town centre site occupied by various discount stores in recent years have been approved.

The application, by Millside Foods Ltd, aims to get permission for 29 King William Street to be used as either shops, professional services, restaurants or cafes, drinking establishments, offices or gyms.

Borough planner John Wilson has granted permission for the proposal.

He said: “The application site currently displays a ‘To Let’ sign, and currently occupies a retail menswear clothes shop at ground floor.

“The proposed flexible use is considered to support the adaptation of the building to such uses as may best support the premises in continuing in active use, and to allow a speedy change of use where a new business may not succeed.

"The proposal to include retail, business/office, restaurant and gym and treatment uses in the scheme is considered acceptable in that all uses are compatible with a town centre location; and whilst all are not characteristic of a primary shopping front, it is considered that making a success of a town centre use in this location will support the vitality and viability of King William Street, enhancing its offer and attractiveness.”

In a statement submitted to Blackburn with Darwen Council, a Millside Foods Ltd spokesman said: “For this application site, the current occupier is representative of a trend, whereby when a tenant leaves, with demand from retailers low, landlords are letting space on a short time basis to discount retailers.

“The ground floor has been let on an ongoing temporary arrangement with mutual break options every three months.

“Whilst this avoids a vacant unit, avoiding a dominance of discount retailers is essential as too many can diminish the overall offer in a centre and can result in consumers being attracted to alternative centres or online.

“The retail role of centres is important, but it is now important for centres to evolve and adapt to these trends and provide a wider range of uses.

“Capturing the opportunities that growth sectors provide, such as the new coffee culture, is key.

“The leisure and food and beverage sectors attract people to a centre, enhance the overall visitor experience, and critically increase dwell times, increasing expenditure.

“This planning application proposes a range of town centres uses to enhance the prospects of securing a high calibre tenant on a long-term lease.

“The last long-term tenant was SpecSavers who we understand vacated the premises in 2011.

“Since that time the site has been actively marketed. Sixteen Real Estate, specialist retail and leisure agents, have been marketing the premises for the last two years with very limited interest and no offers from retail occupiers.

“The proposal will help to secure a high calibre tenant and, in the future, avoid any lengthy void periods by providing a flexible range of uses. A flexible permission will ensure agents can respond quickly to occupier interest and this will in turn help the unit to contribute towards the vitality of Blackburn town centre.”