Shop and apartment plan for former Darwen pub binned following local backlash

The conversion of a decaying former pub into a new shop with an apartment above it has been vetoed by planners.

Umer Zubair had applied for planning permission to turn The Swan public house at 542 Bolton Road, Darwen into a retail unit at the ground floor with an upper floor flat. He wanted to convert the premises, vacant since 2020, into a convenience store.

In 2023 the building was approved to become four one-bedroom flats including the installation of a new front door and window. But now Blackburn with Darwen Council has refused the latest application which generated objections from residents concerned about anti-social behaviour, parking, and road safety.

The proposal has been rejected on highways grounds and the damaging impact it could have on existing shops in nearby district centres following a report by senior planner Christian Barton.

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The ground for refusal given in the decision notice are: “The proposed retail unit would not be located within or immediately adjacent to an existing group of local shops. The proposed retail unit would not be positioned in association with existing defined centres, and it has not been adequately demonstrated that no preferable site is available or likely to be available within a reasonable timescale to accommodate the development, which would have the potential to negatively impact the viability and vitality of existing centres.

“The site has inadequate off-street servicing provisions for the proposed use, which would result in deliveries being conducted from the public highway network, and such an outcome would have the potential to prejudice road safety and the safe, efficient, and convenient movement of highway users.”

A supporting statement prepared by Urban Future Planning Consultancy submitted with the application said: “The former Swan Public House ceased trading in 2020 and has stood vacant ever since. Parts of the building have begun to fall into a state of disrepair. The applicant has considered a number of re-use options for the building but in terms of suitability and viability, considers a mixed-use retail / residential scheme as the most appropriate.

“The introduction of a retail unit at ground floor would result in job creation for local people and sustainable economic development and promote consumer choice.”

Mr Barton’s report said: “This application involves changing the use of the building to form a retail unit. The first-floor ancillary apartment would be used by the applicant.

“A shop area at 110 square metres would be formed with a till area and staff toilet positioned to the right of the front door.”