PLANS have been sent in to convert a former restaurant premises which has been empty for several years into a vets practice.

A new application has been sent in to council planners for the vacant former Frankie & Benny’s unit at Ravenhead Retail Park.

The unit "was previously occupied by Frankie & Benny’s as a restaurant", until this relocated to Linkway West in 2018 before eventually closing in 2020.

The unit at Ravenhead Retail Park has remained vacant since the relocation.

The Star recently reported after previous plans to subdivide the unit, with a bakery chain having expressed interest in one half, were withdrawn.

This was due to a “withdrawal” of interest from the bakery operator.

A cover letter in the plans, drawn up by planning agents DWD Property and Planning, on behalf of applicant Corona Vulcan Ravenhead Limited, states the unit “has been marketed extensively by the applicant”. It says “there has been very limited interest in the unit and, most recently, following site inspections, the unit was rejected by a national chain of charity shops”.

In late 2023, after “interest in half the unit from a national bakery/café operator”, plans to subdivide the unit were submitted but “subsequently withdrawn following the bakery/café operator withdrawing its interest in the unit”.

St Helens Star: The application has been submitted to council plannersThe application has been submitted to council planners (Image: St Helens Star)

The letter adds: “The applicant has now entered into head of terms for the whole of Unit 6A with Animal Trust Vets CIC, who propose to operate a veterinary surgery from the unit.

“Animal Trust Vets would take the unit on a 15-year lease ensuring its long-term occupation and use.

“The applicant’s investment in the unit will be in the region of £100,000 to £200,000 comprising the costs to strip out the previous occupier’s (now defunct) shopfit and repair damage sustained from vandals.

“Bringing the unit back into beneficial use will contribute to the local economy in terms of jobs and spending as well as business rates (the unit is currently subject to empty rates relief as it is vacant and incapable of occupation).”

Plans add the application “involves the change of use of a modest amount of floorspace, just over 361 m2”.

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The application adds: “Furthermore, it is important to note that veterinary surgeries are generally located outside of town centre locations, where they can serve local neighbourhoods, and also provide adequate parking and ease of access.

“Due to the nature of visits to veterinary surgeries, with people needing to transport their pets safely and securely, town centre locations that have limited parking, and where access is more reliant on public transport, can be challenging”.

The application form does not state the exact number of jobs expected to be created by the veterinary practice.

Plans seek permission for opening hours from 6am to 11pm every day.

A decision by council planners on the application is expected by July 16.