PLANS have been lodged for B&M Bargains to expand into retail units abandoned by Maplin and Mothercare.

The cut-price chain wants to merge three units at Blackburn Retail Park in Lower Audley Street.

Part of the expansion will be taken up by a new garden centre.

The equivalent of 18 new full-time jobs would be created if the development goes ahead.

The two units have stood empty since Maplin went into administration in February 2018 and Mothercare entered into company voluntary arrangement in May 2018 resulting in the store closure. If approved, the scheme will include new fencing, groundworks and alterations to the service yard in order to create the garden centre.

Work would be carried out at the back of the units to create access to the garden centre.

The existing Maplin entrance would be removed, while the current B&M entrance would be reclad and visually improved.

And a new entrance would be created at the former Mothercare unit.

The remaining service yard will remain as it is and will be fully accessible for HGV entry and turning as required for deliveries.

The car park and access will be unaffected.

A planning statement submitted as part of the application reads: “The proposed garden centre would be linked to an existing operational retail use and cannot be disaggregated.

“It is neither feasible, nor realistic, to relocate the entire retail operation in order to add a circa 441sqm garden centre at a hypothetically alternative site.

“From an operational perspective, it is highly impractical to locate a garden centre, whether standalone or part of a wider use, within a town centre given the need for immediate customer parking and handling of larger and bulkier goods.

“Furthermore, the tenant operates from both the retail park and Blackburn town centre.

“It is commercially unrealistic to expect the retailer to relocate from the retail park to the town centre, nor can the full garden

centre offer be provided in the town centre.

“This proposal is in response to B&M’s requirement to upsize their existing store.

“The proposed alterations to the front elevation maintain the same design approach, which will complete the refurbishment of the retail terrace.

“The layout of the proposed garden centre will not affect existing retailers on the park.

“In addition to these works, other repairs together with remedial works will be carried out to the building fabric as part of the investment to configure units 2 and 3.”

B & M also has a store in Whitebirk and Blackburn town centre.