A PLAN to transform a Grade II listed town centre shop into a large Italian restaurant – the third in a market town with about 8,000 residents – has been recommended for approval.

The owners of the premises in Richmond Market Place, North Yorkshire, which has a coffee shop on one side and the Shanghai City Chinese Takeaway, said they were applying to change the use of the premises as efforts to market the property for retail use had proved unsuccessful.

The restaurant is planned to have up to 90 covers and be open until 10pm, which the applicant says would see up to 15 people employed and help support the evening economy.

However, ahead of Richmondshire District Council’s planning committee considering the application, businesses in the town said the loss of a large shop premises would be a blow to Richmond town centre.

Firms said they did not believe the owners, who run restaurants in Yarm and Middlesbrough, had a genuine interest in finding a retailer to take it on.

A spokesman for the Original Richmond Business and Tourism Association said the property had been of interest its members, but no one had been able to contact the seller’s agents.

Recommending the scheme be granted, planning officers said it would promote employment and benefit the Market Place.

Here's what people are saying on the Facebook group Richmond Yorkshire Forum about the plan:

"Businesses wanting to come to Richmond should be encouraged and welcomed. We need more to fill the empty units. I hope the restaurant opens and is successful."

"Richmond has a thriving tourist population need good choice of eating places open until late."

"More choice and competition can't be a bad thing."

"A shopping centre needs a certain number of varied shops otherwise it stops attracting shoppers."

"People travel to Yarm to eat out in the evening Richmond could develop in the same way."

"I wholeheartedly support a restaurant, just not another Italian, we need variety and diversity, just saying!"

"Better this than being left dormant. It was up for grabs for a while so seemingly no retailers must have been interested."