AN indoor children's play area which has stood empty for 15 years has been earmarked for use as a national training academy by pub chain Toby Carvery.

Mitchells & Butlers Retail Ltd, which owns the brand, has revealed plans to transform the disused play den at the Hopgrove Toby Carvery in to a training kitchen for staff across the country.

Plans have been submitted to City of York Council requesting a change of use for redundant buildings on the site, off Malton Road.

The proposals are to create a training academy for Toby Carvery, which operates 156 sites and employs 5,000 staff nationwide.

The academy will feature a mock-up of a working kitchen, carvery deck and seating area, where staff will be able to learn to cook, carve and serve customers.

Sarah Pyne, from The JTS Partnership, acting agents for Mitchells & Butlers, said: "In terms of the distribution of Toby Carvery’s across the United Kingdom, the York site is centrally located, half way between the furthest north in Scotland and the furthest south in Bournemouth. This is an ideal location for Toby Carvery to offer such a training opportunity.

"The fact this proposal seeks to re-use a redundant building is both an effective use of land and encourages immediate and wider benefits, by way of supporting an established and successful business, and providing an opportunity for training and skills development."

The plans state at any one time there will be no more than 12 Toby Carvery employees being taught in the new facility, by three or four trainers.

It is proposed the onsite Holiday Inn Express, which is held on a long lease from the company, will provide overnight accommodation for staff participating in training.

Ms Pyne added: "This application makes effective and efficient use of a vacant building to provide an essential training facility for the staff of an established, well known and successful company.

"The proposal will provide a facility to train its staff so allowing the company to provide the best possible level of service for its customers."

Planning permission was granted in February 1994 for a rear extension to the pub, formerly the Stockton on the Forest Public House, to create a children’s play area. The play area was closed in the late 1990’s and the building has not been used since.

The chance of use application is due to be determined by June 23.