PROPOSALS to turn a historic former cinema and nightclub complex in a market town into flats have been approved by councillors.

Rossendale Council's development control committee has granted planning permission to Hurstwood Holdings to redevelop the Heritage Arcade in Rawtenstall into 42 two-bedroomed apartments.

The arcade on Bacup Road in the town's conservation area was first built as The Picture House cinema in 1920 before being converted into a shopping arcade in the 1990s, but has been vacant for some time.

It also includes the former Zazu and Vogue nightclubs (former Billiard Hall), and the scheme keeps key elements of the Art Deco building including the retention of the distinctive façade.

The scheme includes the demolition of most of the existing buildings.

A report by Rossendale Council's head of planning Mike Atherton recommending approval said: "Whilst the impact on the former cinema is great (essentially total demolition) its impact on the character and appearance of the, conservation area, because the building is of a low overall significance, would amount to being ‘less than substantial’ rather than ‘substantial harm’.

"The principal value of the former cinema building and adjacent Billiard Hall, is in its ornate front facade and the benefits this continuity provides to the Bacup Road frontage.

"It is considered that having a scheme which delivers a retained frontage should be welcomed and this should be perceived as a public benefit.

"Overall, it is considered that the scale of the development and the amended design would only cause a low/moderate degree of harm to both the character and appearance of the conservation area.

"Officers are mindful of the threat from the continued slow decline in the significance of the site.

"The scheme delivers substantial benefits in terms of:

"* it amounts to a good quality regeneration scheme which would cause less than substantial harm to the character and appearance of the conservation area;

"* wider regeneration and economic benefits for the town centre through enhanced vitality of the area;

"* bringing the vacant part of the site back into use; and

" boosting the supply of housing locally on a brownfield site."

Cllr Joseph Stevens, who represents Longholme ward, said: “I welcome the approval of these plans to bring the old Picture House back into use. The building is in a prime location in our evolving town centre."