PLANNERS have secured the future of York’s iconic Barnitts store by approving proposals to redevelop part of the building.

Managing director Paul Thompson said this evening's decision by City of York Council’s planning committee was ‘welcome news after a challenging time.’

He said: “This decision means we can now move on and concentrate on the next steps for Barnitts through reinvesting in retailing in York and expand the business by opening our new retail click and collect store with parking at James Street.

“It will also result in us taking 98 per cent of our delivery traffic out of the city centre.”

Councillors backed a joint proposal by Oakgate Group and Barnitts to turn the former Drill Hall building on St Andrewgate, into 10 townhouses and two apartments, while the rest of the shop stays open in Kings Square and gets a revamp.

The committee had deferred a decision last November, leaving the store’s future on a knife-edge, amid a dispute over whether the developers should make a payment towards affordable housing elsewhere.

They claimed such a payment would make the redevelopment unviable, and the District Valuer was asked to look at the issue independently, and concluded recently that the developers’ concerns were justified.

All but one councillor said tonight said they were now happy with the proposals.

Cllr John Galvin said he supported the scheme '120 per cent', and claimed that to refuse it now would be 'bizarre' and would damage the reputation and integrity of the committee.

Coun Johnny Crawshaw said he backed the scheme, but said approval must not create a precedent for other shops to come up with 'any old development' to ensure their viability.

Cllr Denise Craghill said it was a shame there would not be an affordable housing contribution but that had to be accepted,and heritage issues had largely been addressed in a positive way, and it would be a positive development in the area.

Earlier, Richard France of Oakgate said the new homes would be intended as places to live, and not as holiday homes, after councillors had raised concerns about the latter happening.

Phil Pinder, of York Retail Forum, spoke in support of the application, saying Barnitts was an 'essential retailer' with a strong local customer base, and the downsizing would reduce the business rates it had to pay and the increase in the housing stock would benefit city centre retail.

The Drill Hall was previously used by the Territorial Army and was bought by Barnitts around 25 years ago to be converted into retail space.