Historic ex-bank could become nightclub under revived plans in Greater Manchester town

The applicant reckons the development will help revive the area.

Plans to convert a long-vacant town centre bank into a nightclub have been revived, despite previously being rejected over anti-social behaviour concerns. 

An application to change the use of the former Royal Bank of Scotland, in Middleton, was refused by Rochdale Council’s planning committee 18 months ago, with members citing a history of alcohol-fuelled trouble in the area.

But Salford-based Laaj Enterprises has now revived the scheme, calling into question the basis on which its previous proposal for the Market Place building was refused.

Referring to officers’ advice to councillors in a report and at a meeting, a supporting statement reads: “The planning and licensing committee were advised twice that the matters upon which they wished the application to be refused were not material planning considerations. 

Former RBS bank, Market Place, Middleton town centre Credit: Townscape

“Nonetheless the committee went on to refuse the application and the refusal notice cited the sole reason for refusal a matter which they had been explicitly advised would not be a material consideration under a planning application.”

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And it goes on to warn that should the council again refuse permission ‘an appeal will be lodged with the Planning Inspectorate together with an application for a full award of costs on the grounds that the LPA [council]  has unreasonably refused / failed to determine the substance of the appeal.’ 

What’s its history?

Dating to the late 19th century, the Market Place bank was rebuilt in the early 1990s but retains its stone facade and several original features.

The four-storey building, which has been vacant for three years, sits within the town centre conservation area. Next door is a Grade II building designed by the renowned architect Edgar Wood which forms part of the Asheton Arms. 

The proposal is for the change of use to a nightclub/cafe, operating on the ground and first floor of the building. The applicant hopes the site will be granted a pavement licence to serve food and drink during the daytime. It would create four full-time and eight-part time jobs.

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The applicant says this chimes with council policies to ‘revitalise’ town centres. In a planning document the firm also notes the authority ‘explicitly’ aims to boost the evening economy in accessible destinations – pointing out the proposed site is in ‘the most accessible area of Middleton’.

It adds: “The area is commercial in its nature and has licensed premises within a few metres within the same terrace of properties. The immediate street scene is dominated by the Long Street Roundabout which is a primary route through the town centre and has significant traffic flows at all times of the day and night.”

The applicant intends to open the premises seven days a week, trading until 11pm Monday to Thursday, 2am on Saturdays and 10.30pm on Sundays.

For this, Laaj Enterprises will also need to apply to the council for a premises licence, which requires the holder to take steps to prevent and deal with crime and disorder.The licence can be revoked if it fails to uphold any of its conditions.

Rochdale Council will decide whether to grant planning permission in due course.