PLANS to replace an antiques centre with a pizza shop, bakery and charity store have been approved near a controversial out-of-town shopping complex.

Durham County Council’s planning department has given the go-ahead to the change of use of Talk of The Town, an antique furniture store on the Abraham Enterprise Park at St Helen Auckland.

The store now has permission to be divided into three units which will house a Domino’s Pizza, Greggs Bakery and Barnardo’s charity shop.

The area has undergone a major regeneration over the past two years with a McDonald’s restaurant and drive-through Starbucks coffee shop springing up next door to the store.

And across the road a new shopping complex featuring eight stores has been built with plans for a further four next door approved.

Plans for a multi-screen cinema, bowling alley, restaurants and shops on nearby wasteland are also due to be submitted to the council later this week.

The development at St Helen Auckland, where there has also been two new supermarkets, a football stadium, KFC and Marston’s restaurant built, has sparked fury in Bishop Auckland Town Centre.

Councillors, residents and town centre businesses fear the out of town shops will drag trade away from the centre, while supporters of the St Helen Auckland shops say they will attract more visitors to the area who will then go into the middle of Bishop Auckland.

Planning officer David Walker said the owners of the Abraham Business Park, who submitted the change of use application, had investigated the possibility of the three new businesses opening in the town centre.

He said: “The applicant’s analysis has dismissed all vacant units within the town centre as not being suitable.”

The planning officer said both Greggs and Barnardo’s already have shops in the town centre and would not wish to open further stores so close.

Mr Walker said: “With regards to Domino’s, the applicants have dismissed units within the town centre on existing parking restrictions within the centre and the need for the premises having a suitable drop off and pick up area for customers.”