WORK is proceeding to turn a former bank in a historic town centre into a pub and restaurant.

The vacant Barclays branch in Church Street in the Darwen Conservation Area Site will have ground and top-floor bars.

Owners of the premises AGC Properties Ltd propose changes to the frontage and windows of the building opposite the Market Square and bus station.

The new pub will have large opening doors in the rear wall to give access to a large yard area which will be fitted out with decking and seating.

The former bank is next to the existing Bridgewater pub.

The change has received a mixed reaction from Darwen councillors.

Labour’s Cllr Dave Smith wished it success while Liberal Democrat Roy Davies expressed fears the town centre was getting ‘saturated’ with pubs, cafes, restaurants and takeaways.

The design and access statements accompanying the original, approved planning application for change of use and for the detailed alterations in the building create the pub/restaurant said: “The applicant proposes that the site be used for catering purposes with the provision of a combination of food and drink.

“This will bring the vacant property back into active use, generate employment and complement the existing commercial offer in Darwen town centre.

“It will support the primary retail emphasis during the day while also encouraging discretionary leisure footfall in the evenings, helping to make Darwen a key destination of choice for the area.

“This is an attractive façade in a highly prominent location facing the historic market square in the centre of Darwen. Bringing the property back into active use represents the best way to secure its economic future.

“The main stonework features of the building are to be retained. The top floor will have a bar area with a glazed screen opening onto an internal balcony.”

Darwen West ward’s Cllr Smith said: “The building has been empty for two or three years. I hope the new venture will be a success. It is good to see people still have the confidence to invest in Darwen town centre.”

Cllr Davies, who represents Darwen East, said: “I am just concerned that the town centre is getting saturated with pubs, restaurants, cafes and takeaways. It’s getting out of hand. At least it’s got an outdoor and smoking area. I am worried it may be too small.”