Plans to demolish the former Beales store in the centre of Lynn, to make way for four new retail units, have been approved by councillors.
Design concerns were raised during a lively debate about the scheme for the Baxters Plain site at a meeting of the West Norfolk Council planning committee yesterday morning.
But chairman Vivienne Spikings said the scheme represented a “wonderful opportunity” to help to maintain the town centre as a shopping attraction.
She said other towns would welcome similar proposals and Lynn was “extremely lucky” to have such a scheme put forward against the trends towards both out of town and online shopping.
She added: “We see Marks and Spencer getting rid of shops. We don’t know what the future is there.
“We must keep a vibrant footfall. We must keep a variety of shops in the town centre and, if you don’t, it’s the kiss of death soon.
“Other towns are crying out for shops like this.”
Ahead of the meeting, concerns were raised about the appearance of the area, with Lynn Civic Society officials calling for urgent action to tackle what they called the “dereliction” of the area.
The view was backed by committee member Tony Bubb, who pleaded for “something better” to brighten the surroundings.
He said there had been a rose garden in the area before previous developments took place.
No changes are being proposed to the service area at the rear of the site, despite calls by the Civic Society for a wider plan to focus on enhancing the nearby Paradise Parade.
A condition requiring the applicant, Vancouver GP c/o Lams, to install appropriate alternative planting to replace a mature maple tree that will be cut down to make way for the development was approved, despite officers suggesting such a measure was unnecessary.
But deputy mayor Carol Bower said the design of the buildings would “do nothing” to enhance the appearance of the area.
Avril Wrightsaid she acknowledged the potential economic benefits of the scheme, but insisted that wider considerations should not be overlooked.
She said: “All I feel is we have a chance to make something better than what it is and King’s Lynn deserves the best.”
But Mrs Spikings said she did not believe the proposal was a poor design.
Adrian Lawrence said shoppers would not come to the centre of Lynn to shop if they did not like what was on offer.
And Geoffrey Wareham asked: “When are some members going to realise these buildings are utility buildings? They’re not the town hall. There are people trying to earn a living out of them and if they can’t, they’ll move on.”
Chris Crofts also suggested it was unrealistic to seek more attractive designs for the site.
The plans allow for the creation of one retail unit covering 20,000 square feet at the corner of St Dominic’s Square, plus three other, smaller, units on the site of the current premises, which closed in August.