The first steps to see one of Knaresborough’s most prominent high street units brought back into use have been hailed as a chance to bring a new lease of life into the town centre.
CFK Developments is attempting to see a change of use on the ground and cellar levels of Claro Chambers, a grade II listed building which previously housed the town’s branch of Natwest until October last year.
If approved this will enable work to be carried out which will enable businesses, ranging from retailers, restaurants, takeaways or cafes to operate there. It also calls for the refurbishment of the former coach house ,located behind the building, in order to create new office space.
News of the application has been welcomed by the Knaresborough Chamber of Trade. President, Stephen Teggin, said it could provide a boost for the town, which currently has almost 20 empty shop units across the town centre.
He said: “The Chamber of Trade are very happy to see something happening with the bank and to potentially see new businesses created. That side of the High Street does need some help, people are often crossing over to the other side of the street because there is not a whole lot of retail there.
“If they can get a fair deal on rent I am sure those units will be filled up quickly. Whatever happens the street could do with a lift, and some new businesses would make it a whole lot better.”
Offering an opportunity for new and current businesses in the town Mr Teggin also said it will help the town as it adapts to the shift to online shopping.
He said: “It is in a prominent position on the High Street and we know there are people who want to expand their businesses in Knaresborough.
“Although the town has certainly gotten used to seeing empty shops the town is pulling through problems, like the shift to Internet shopping and people mainly using sites like Amazon. We are now home to a number of specialist businesses as a result, and I think this has helped us through these times unlike many other places like Harrogate who are now just starting to feel the effect.
“We will be looking forward to seeing what businesses move in, as it will be a wonderful to see it brought back into use.”
With some properties in the town centre remaining unused for several years North Yorkshire County Coun, David Goode (Lib Dem, Knaresborough) also welcomed news of the plans.
He said: “Its a property that has been empty for some time, but given the history of the other properties on the high street that have remained so for years its good to see that work is starting on bringing this back into use so quickly.
“I think any of the options that have been put forward will be good for the town, given its prime location on the high street.”
The application is part of wider plans for the site by the developer, including construction of four new dwellings in the car park of the bank. These will however be subject to separate applications. CFK Developments has also said it was unlikely that the unit would be filled if a change of use was not approved.
Planning documents say: “A new occupant is yet to be found. However, there is no reasonable likelihood of another bank wishing to occupy the premises and it is thought unlikely that an alternative occupant operating within use class A2 (financial and professional services) will be found.”