A PLANNING inspector has dismissed an appeal to allow a bookmakers to open on Darlington’s High Row on the grounds that it could damage the viability of the town centre as a retail destination.

An application to change the use of the former Jessops camera store into a betting shop was turned down by Darlington Borough Council’s planning committee last year due to fears that a primary retail location would be lost.

Councillors argued that the shop had not been marketed to retailers for a sufficiently long period to allow them to deviate from the local plan, which aims to protect retail outlets in the town centre unless there are no other options.

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Agents England and Lyle appealed the decision to the planning inspectorate, which dismissed the application and agreed with the local authority that the shop had not been marketed for retail use for long enough.

The applicant argued that the premises had been actively marketed for retail use by Jessops’ administrators PWC and by Carver Commercial on behalf of the owner of the building and that a change to the retail landscape in Darlington meant the shop’s limited size made it unattractive to retailers.

In a report confirming the appeal dismissal, the planning inspectorate said: “The appellant has submitted a limited amount of descriptive evidence of the extent, coverage, and results of the marketing exercise, and has indicated that the exercise did not concentrate solely on seeking a retail occupier.

“The appellant stated that only limited interest had been received from a travel agent and another retailer, with Ladbrokes, the betting company, described as the only serious interest.”

The report concluded: “Whilst I am satisfied that the proposed development would be capable of providing an active frontage, and have noted the benefit of filling a vacant unit, the marketing of the premises has not demonstrated conclusively that there is a lack of demand for the continued occupation of the premises for a retail use.

“The loss of the existing retail unit within the primary shopping frontage would not safeguard the vitality and viability of Darlington town centre.”

The Jessops store has been vacant since the company went into administration in January last year.