PLANS to convert a former bank in Penistone into five new retail units have been met with caution by two local councillors, who say the last thing the area needs is ‘more empty units’.

The former Natwest bank on Market Street closed in 2018 and, despite numerous planning applications to change the use of the site in a bid to improve the area’s infrastructure, it has remained vacant.

Earlier this month, a planning application was submitted to change the site into five new retail units.

Other alterations to the building include the installation of a glass roof lantern, as well as changes to an existing window forming door opening.

A planning report states: “The building is uniquely built for the purpose as a bank to serve the local community at large.

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“As times have changed most people use online facilities and therefore the bank closed.

“The strong features and the stone cladding with small windows are not generally suited for other use classes and therefore the proposal to carry out internal layout alterations to form five shops would meet the applicant’s demands as well as allowing the building to carry on serving this popular location and serve the community.

“The movement and circulation will not dramatically increase due to the proposed change of use as the previous use of the site is a town centre location.”

The statement adds that should the application be approved by Barnsley Council’s planning board, the development will commence ‘immediately’.

In a joint statement between Couns Hannah Kitching and Mandy Lowe Flello, both of whom represent Penistone West, previous unsuccessful attempts to convert the former bank were highlighted.

They told the Chronicle: “The Natwest bank building has been empty for four years now, since the bank closed in 2018.

“No one likes seeing empty buildings on our High Street and so we welcome any efforts to bring it back into use in the heart of the town.

“It is concerning, however, that previous attempts to do this have been unsuccessful.

“Change of use permission was granted some time ago to allow the opening of a drinking establishment in the building - it is a shame that this has come to nothing, especially as Penistone’s night time economy has grown and thrived in recent years.”

Although the pair welcome news to revitalise the building, the number of residents using online shopping rather than physical shops has cast major doubts in their minds.

“We all know that High Street retail has been on the decline for many years, exacerbated by an increased reliance on internet shopping during the Covid pandemic,” the statement added.

“While we have some wonderful and well-used independent shops on our High Street, we do have concerns about how a further five retail units will be filled in a way that benefits the town.

“The last thing we need is more empty retail units.”

A total of 11 neighbours have been made aware of the planning application with no appeals to date.

Public consultation ends on October 6.