Supermarket given go ahead to convert empty retail unit

The Morrisons store at St Ives

The Morrisons store at St Ives - Credit: Archant

An empty shop built as part of the Morrisons development in St Ives is set to be converted into a gym and to create extra floorspace for the supermarket.

The shop was built at the same time as the supermarket, which stands next door and opened in March 2018, and is on the market - but has had no takers so far.

Now Morrisons, through its subsidiary Optimisation Developments, has had a bid to change the use of the building approved by Huntingdonshire District Council. It had applied to turn the building, earmarked for retail, into a gym and ancillary floorspace for the supermarket.

St Ives Town Council, which had been concerned about the impact the original out of town shopping development would have on the town centre, initially came out against the sub-division, fearing that this would create two outlets which could affect the viability of existing shops by offering more retail space outside the town.

But it subsequently approved the plan on condition that the shop was used as a gym or something similar which brought additional benefits to the town.

Planners for Morrisons said they had investigated the nine shops which were vacant at the time and none clashed with the proposals for the outlet.

They had also looked into the Cattle Market, bus station and Globe Street car park areas, some of which had been floated as redevelopment sites, but concluded that there were no plans to make landholdings - most of which were owned by Huntingdonshire District Council - available for anything other than their present uses.

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Its report, submitted with the planning application, said: "The assessment above shows that none of the potential sites we have considered are suitable and available for the proposed development."

Morrisons' planners said the shop had a condition which specified that it could not be sub-divided, but that Morrisons now wanted to make the change so that it provided more flexible opportunities to attract potential users.

They said the aim was to allow the building to have the option for single use, as it did at present, or for it to be sub-divided to create up to two units which could be used as a gym, vets or a coffee shop as well as ancillary storage space for Morrisons.

Planners from the district council said the change of use was acceptable and would not have an impact on the viability of the town centre, adding: "Overall, the amendments sought result in a satisfactory development and should be permitted."