COUNCILLORS have reaffirmed their belief that proposals to transform Llandudno’s former M&S store into a food and leisure hub would help revitalise the town centre.
Mostyn Estates were granted planning permission before Christmas for a change of use of the building from retail to mixed use, including food, drink, and leisure.
But Conwy Council’s planning committee were asked to reaffirm their decision this month after going against officers’ advice in December.
Then, planning officers felt the application didn’t include enough information and told the committee it should refuse the application in its current form, citing the potential of late-night trade affecting hotels and residents living on Somerset Street.
Members were warned to think “long and hard” before removing certain planning conditions; otherwise, homes could find themselves on the doorstep of a nightclub or takeaway.
Such ventures, though, would need additional licences, and several committee members felt restricting the building’s potential uses could narrow its marketability, insisting it was key to Mostyn Street recovering after a shift in footfall from the town centre to the retail parks.
A council study revealed there had been a 40% decline in the number of cars parked in the town centre since the M&S store had moved to Parc Llandudno, as well as a dramatic fall in footfall.
Officers advised some areas of the building should be restricted to office or storage use, particularly the back of the building encroaching on residents’ properties.
But whilst some conditions remain, the committee said it was important the building could tempt investors and removed some conditions relating to the building’s mixed use.
Cllr Mandy Hawkins proposed that councillors reaffirmed and approved the application.
Cllr Chris Cater seconded Cllr Hawkins’ proposal.
“We are very wary as a committee that we don’t want to be too restrictive,” said Cllr Cater.
“We want the centre of Mostyn Street to be revitalised. And as we know, the town and leisure has changed so much. It was changing already before the pandemic, and then that speeded up changes.
“I remember Mostyn Street in the 1960s when it was full of tobacconists and tailors and butchers. They no longer exist, and of course, the multiple NatWest branches.
“There is only one now, and that’s hanging on by a thread. So we know the high street is changing, and I think that is my concern.
“If we are too restrictive, then we’ll make it difficult for the interesting new uses and the commercially viable new uses for this building.”
Cllr Anthony Bertola added: “There is not enough flexibility in the conditions. People want entertainment. They want food.
“They want drink, and they want shopping to be a pleasure, and this building is the perfect opportunity to do all of those things.”
Cllr David Carr said: “I see there are too many conditions.
“We’ve got an empty building there, and there is a great risk… Retail is moving out of Llandudno to the retail park.
“I think if people are going to make a go of that building, they need to give the public what they want.
“As to ‘this could be a club or a casino’ – it couldn’t. It would have to go through licensing.”
But Conwy’s planning solicitor Matt Giorgiou warned that conditions were to ensure the committee didn’t grant unconditional planning permission, insisting the majority of conditions were standard.
Councillors, though, voted to remove several conditions, allowing more flexibility for most parts of the building, while more controversial uses such as a nightclub, casino or takeaway would be subject to separate licences.