BUSINESS bosses have hailed a renovation of the former Gooch and Housego factory in the centre of Ilminster as a boost for the town.
Plans to turn the derelict buildings at the Cornhill in Market Place into 14 homes and three units suitable for either shops or offices were given the green light by South Somerset District Council.
Peter Eldridge Architects, who devised the scheme on behalf of the applicants, will build: l Four apartments - two one-bedroom and two two-bedroom.
l Ten houses of between one and three bedrooms, with either a private or communal garden.
l A covered parking area for six cars and bicycle rack.
The developers have been told they have three years to start the work and bosses at Ilminster Chamber of Commerce say the planning permission being granted is welcome news.
President Phillip Wyatt said: “It was a building that needed to be developed.
“I am hoping retail stores which would bring new parts to the town and different stores like clothes shops to bring people in.”
Committee member Michael Fry-Foley added: “The site has been derelict for a number of years so it is good to bring it back to life.
“The Chamber of Commerce has some concerns towards the use of the commercial properties on the ground floor level because access is awkward.
“Presumably it won't be retail but more offices but that is not a problem.
“In general terms we support it and look forward to it happening soon.”
The site has been derelict since 2005 when Gooch and Housego, an optical equipment manufacturer, moved to the former Clarks shoe factory at Dowlish Ford.
A previous application to develop the site was approved in 2008 but then expired and a second application was refused and withdrawn in September last year.
Some of the buildings on the site are listed and date from the 18th Century but only those with no historic value will be replaced.
However, concerns have been raised about access to the development, which would be via the existing archway leading onto Cornhill Market Place and is close to the Meeting House Arts Centre, a Grade I listed building.
Cllr Carol Goodall said: “There is no doubt the residents and councillors live want to see the site developed.
“The only issue town councillors and ward members at South Somerset District Council's Area West Committee found was the access at the front of the building and no access from the back.”
Mayor of Ilminster Emma Jane Taylor added: “It is good that it is being developed but I have major concerns over the access in and out of the building. There are also concerns over the demolition with some of the buildings and how they will get the rubble out.”