PROPOSALS to turn vacant retail units into studio flats have been refused permission by council planners.

The Star had reported after initial plans seeking prior approval for the conversion of vacant units to apartments at the Barrow Arcade site on Claughton Street were submitted and later withdrawn.

The latest application seeking a change of use of the ground floor units was sent in by the Nicholson Group earlier this year.

The application site building already hosts Nicholson Place, which consists of 15 properties at the building.

An application form in the plans stated: "The proposal is for the change of use from retail units along part of the ground floor of Barrow Arcades, to six dwellinghouses (studio flats).

"The main entrance to the rest of the building is unaltered through this development as access to each dwelling is achieved from Claughton Street façade.

"The entrance to each dwelling is recessed within the building/site footprint. The design and chosen materials will seamlessly blend in with the existing building through the use of similar external materials to that of the upper floors and surrounding buildings.

"The existing shop front curtain walling will be replaced with modern black framed windows/doors to match, as best as possible, to the existing frames they are replacing."

It added: "The current use of the site is mixed use (retail and residential). The upper floors in recent years have been developed into modern flats, the ground floor contains retail units that are no longer occupied due to their location in an ever-changing high street."

However, council planners refused the application.

Planning officer Alex Ball said in a report: “In making the planning balance considering the benefits in favour of the development in terms of delivering of five residential units and economic benefits, as these are small scale, they are not assessed to outweigh the harm arising from loss of the retail units, harm to the non-designated heritage asset, unsympathetic alterations to the building, and poor standards of accommodation for future occupants.  Therefore, the application is recommended for refusal.”

In the decision notice, it was added “the applicant has failed to demonstrate that the development would contribute positively to the overall vitality and viability of the centre through the loss of the town centre use and delivery of a residential use” and the “design and appearance of the proposed development would fail to respect the character of the host building and surrounding town centre area”.

Planning officers added: “The proposed development would not provide adequate standard of living conditions for future occupants, as part of the external works due to a lack of privacy and lack of outlook to the units for future occupants from the one-way privacy glass proposed”.