A FORMER high-street department store which has stood empty for more than two years could be turned into a 62-bed hotel if new plans are given the go ahead.

The historic building on Newgate Street, in Bishop Auckland was originally owned by The Co-Operative in the1870s but was most recently home to Beales.

The department store announced its closure in October 2016 and closed its doors for the last time in January 2017.

Now, plans have been submitted to Durham County Council's planning committee to demolish part of the Grade II-Listed building and transform it into a hotel with 25 car parking spaces.

A statement submitted with the application reads: "The submitted proposal is for the conversion of the former department store to create three separate units at ground floor and an entrance to the hotel creating a new lobby area.

"To the rear, the former warehouse to the South will be demolished to create 25 car parking spaces and access for deliveries. The first and second floors will be altered subdividing the space to create 62 new ensuite bedrooms.

"The altered warehouse to the North, including the Water Tower will be retained and adapted for hotel lounge, dining and back of house services including deliveries, refuse and laundry. The former cart way will be opened up for outside dining with roof removed.

"There will be no alteration at ground floor level to the shop fronts and the three existing entrances will be use to access the three separate floor spaces."

"The benefits include bringing a large and important building in the centre of Bishop Auckland to a viable use and the associated activity with that which will contribute to economic viability.

"In conclusion, the submitted proposal would sustain the significance of the designated heritage asset of 80 Newgate Street."

Members of the public have until Monday, August 5 to comment on the application and a decision is due to be made by the planning committee by Monday, September 3.

To view the application online visit: publicaccess.durham.gov.uk/online-applications/ and search for reference DM/19/02224/LB.