AN INTEGRAL part of a town centre’s shopping history is to be transformed into 32 apartments after planning permission was granted.
But the ground floor of Ashton’s former Marks and Spencer store will remain as retail space.
Councillors on Tameside Council’s Speakers Panel (Planning) committee unanimously voted to approve the conversion of the first and second floors of the building, which overlooks the market square.
The development was also touted as a possible way of helping inject new life into the retail sector because of the extra population it will bring in, with key workers named as one group who may take them on.
The plan by Adar Investments will see 18 one-bedroomed and 14 two-bedroomed properties created on the long vacant retail space.
Described as ‘comfortably exceeding’ guidelines, they will be accessed by a communal entrance on Warrington Street, with a lobby and lift also being installed.
Courtyards will also be created within the current structure, which will not be made bigger or higher.
A late letter of objection from the neighbouring Ladysmith Shopping Centre queried whether the development, particularly the roof garden that will be placed on it, would hinder any work done on there.
It also queried whether the results of a noise survey done on the market ground was affected as it was conducted during lockdown.
The meeting heard: “The ground floor retail unit will not be affected and will continue to trade. The frontage will not be lost either.”
A report also stated: “The opportunity to develop the site for 32 apartments would make a positive contribution to housing land supply and this should be apportioned due weight in the decision making process.
“The building has no current functioning retail capacity, the first and second floor of the building has been vacant since approximately 2017.
“The 32 units of residential accommodation would significantly increase footfall in this part of Ashton.
“Residents would have access to a range of services and facilities available within walking distance of the site and this includes regular public transport services.
“The accommodation is likely to appeal to a number of key workers who have employment within the town and nearby areas.
“It is not considered that there are any negative connotations associated with the proposals.”
A spokesman in support of the application told the panel: “It will enhance the town centre by bringing in more residents and more vitality to the area.
“The roof garden will be a beautiful space with attractive views. It will be something unique to the area.
“There’s been an extensive marketing campaign for the space and it’s a beautiful building.”
In giving approval, it was decided Adar Investments would hand Tameside Council £26,089.12 towards improvements to public open space within Ashton town centre under a section 106 agreement.