A couple who are reopening a village shop near a local beauty spot have gained planning permission to use their back garden as a customer seating area.

Nicky and Andrew Simpson are opening the Healey Deli in Whitworth, near the Rossendale-Rochdale, which has been empty for an estimated 30 years. It is close to the Healey Dell nature reserve, a wooded valley with the River Spodden, a former railway line and old industrial buildings which are now home to small businesses.

The Simpsons have been granted change-of-use permission by Rossendale Council’s Development Control Committee to use their back garden for customer seating, against a recommendation by planning officers, who feared noise disturbance for neighbours in other back gardens along Market Street in Whitworth.

Rossendale councillors welcomed the shop’s reopening and said the number of customers allowed in the back garden would be low, so any disturbance to neighbouring gardens would be minimal.

Mrs Simpson said: “The building operated as a shop in the past but it has been derelict for years. I think it was a fabric shop and a newspaper shop, but I am not certain. The shop has the right of access to the back garden.

“We don’t want a large number of people in the garden so we dispute the fears about noise. The garden could provide an enclosed seating area for customers. We hope it and the shop will benefit the area, socially and economically. People can sit and rest there after walking up the steep incline from Healey Dell. We also hope our business will help other local businesses and we want to create more jobs.”

She added: “The most important thing for us is that we have brought the building back to use. It has been closed for 20 years or more. The reopening will improve the village. We also manage the public toilets at the request of Whitworth Town Council and have worked hard to improve the village.”

Mrs Simpson said the couple were building a balcony on their terraced house at the shop  which would give them access to the fresh air

Community First Coun Dayne Powell spoke in favour of the Simpsons’ change-of-use application at the planning meeting.

He said: “The shop has been empty for about 30 years. It has been a fabric shop in the past but it has been closed for a long time. I support this plan. It will provide a great opportunity for people in Whitworth to enjoy themselves and walk to Healey Dell. A small number of people in the garden will not effect the area. I think the impact on neighbours will be minimal.  It will only be used in fair weather. Having people in the garden would perhaps be like a barbecue. In fact, the number of people at a typical barbecue is probably more than at the deli garden.

“I think most objections have come from people who don’t live close to the site. The feeling I get from local people is that this will be good. Mrs and Mrs Simpson are doing a great job in renovating the building. ”

Independent Coun James Eaton said: “A lot of work and money has been put into this. It’s close to Healey Dell and the public toilets will also be open. On this occasion, I would recommend this application be approved because it provides a service to the community. Limiting the garden opening time to 7pm seems reasonable too. ”

Conservative Coun Margaret Pendlebury also supported the application.

Rossendale planning officers had recommended refusal because of disturbance fears. There were 16 messages of support and 18 objections to the application. However, after councillors voted to support the Simpsons’ bid, head of planning Mike Atherton said officers would confirm opening hours and the maximum number of seating in the planning conditions.