Part of Hartlepool’s former Marks & Spencer store is set to be turned into a gym after planning permission was granted for a new use.
The flagship store in Middleton Grange Shopping Centre has been empty since M&S moved to the town’s Anchor Retail Park in June.
This will be in my opinion a definite asset to the centre of the town when things are moving away from Middleton GrangeCouncillor Jim Ainslie
Yesterday, councillors on Hartlepool Borough Council’s planning committee, voted in favour of plans to transform the first and second floors into a gym.
The gym plans have been submitted on behalf of Middleton Grange by Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL).
Councillors heard talks are going on with a mainstream gym operator as the potential tenant.
Heather Muddiman, surveying executive for JLL, told the meeting: “The potential tenant of Unit 140 will be a mainstream gym operator which will offer a range of services including classes, sports therapy, injury rehabilitation, nutrition advice and strength and conditioning alongside the traditional gym equipment.
“The proposed change of use will support the viability and vitality of the town centre and will contribute to promoting a competitive town centre.”
Six letters of objection were sent to the council over the plans and centred on the impact it could have on the town’s independent gyms and fears of anti-social behaviour from people hanging around outside if it is to be open late at night.
But Ms Muddiman said the independent gyms offered specialised services and are not in the town centre.
Coun Kevin Cranney said he hoped gym charges would be affordable for all and added: “Given the obesity problem we have in the town if this can marry up with other independent gyms in the town, I have no problem.”
Coun Jim Ainslie said: “This will be in my opinion a definite asset to the centre of the town when things are moving away from Middleton Grange and I certainly welcome this application.”
Middleton Grange manager Mark Rycraft said: “The ground floor unit will remain as retail and we are in talks with a national fashion brand about taking this space.”