A DENTAL practice has been granted permission to take up a vacant Barons Quay unit.

Portman Healthcare – which operates dental and orthodontist practices across the UK – has had a ‘change of use’ application approved by Cheshire West and Chester Council.

The green light means the building, between Card Factory and Sports Direct, will be moved from retail use to ‘D1’ – a non-residential institution.

READ >>> Man arrested on suspicion of murder after Castle pensioner is found dead

A CWAC planning officer said the move would help increase footfall in the town centre, in light of a number of Barons Quay units remaining unused since they were opened in 2016.

In approving the Portman application, case officer Cheryl Parker said: “There are a number of vacant units within the development despite extensive marketing.

Northwich Guardian:

The proposed floor plan for the dental unit

“The occupation of this unit would be beneficial in bringing a vacant unit into an appropriate use by increasing footfall to support the town centre

“Barons Quay is not within a primary shopping frontage, where the non-retail use of a unit would need to demonstrate marketing evidence, i.e. no marketing evidence is required in this instance.

“In any event, the units within the Barons Quay development have been marketed with a majority of the units still vacant.

READ >>> Councillors call for better road links as 164 more Winnington homes are APPROVED

“It is considered that the use of the vacant unit as [a] dental practice is an appropriate use that would support the vitality and viability of the town centre.”

After a slow start, Barons Quay has seen a steady uptake of units since last summer, in the face of challenging times for high street retailers.

H&M was the first retailer to open its doors at the £80 million council-funded retail development last October, swiftly followed by soon-to-expand The Entertainer – which joined long-standing tenants Asda, Odeon and Wildwood.

Northwich Guardian:

The dental practice would take up the unit on the left of this photo – near the steps to Sainsbury's car park

Sports Direct and Card Factory relocated to Barons Quay from Northwich Retail Park and Weaver Square, respectively, earlier this year, while Barons Quay Social has proved a hit.

A Cheshire Ice Cream Farm soft play and restaurant, a Puddle Ducks swimming school, The Coffee House and River Island are all under construction.

High-end fashion retailer Flannels was said to be ‘in talks’ earlier this year, along with a number of other potential new tenants.

READ >>> Campaigner glues hand to desk in protest against homeless service provision

Outside of the units themselves, Barons Quay has become a focal point for town events – including Christmas and Easter extravaganzas as well as the recent successful return of Now Northwich – while River Park and the pontoon has opened the development up to the River Weaver.

Cllr Sam Naylor is CWAC member for the town centre.

He said: "We all have to visit the dentist, and I welcome anything that's going to bring people into Barons Quay.

"It's all about bringing people into the town centre. With the retail market as it is, what's happening in Barons Quay is a totally different kettle of fish to what was originally envisaged.

"That's why we have got a dentist, things like a soft play and golf centre, swimming - we are open to all suggestions and let's get a complete cross-section of activities."