Llandudno landowner Mostyn Estates were granted permission for the building’s use to be changed from retail and ancillary to a mixed-use building comprising a mix of retail, food and beverage, and indoor leisure.
The change of use will allow Mostyn Estates to market the future use of the building more widely.
But a planning report revealed that footfall in the town centre had dropped significantly since M&S had left Mostyn Street.
Since M&S moved to Parc Llandudno in March 2022, the nearby multistorey car park had seen a 40% decline in the number of cars parked.
Data from people counters on Mostyn Street also confirmed a reduction in footfall since M&S relocated.
Cllr Antony Bertola proposed councillors voted in favour of the change of use, which was seconded by Cllr Chris Cater.
The vote was unanimous in favour of granting permission, despite officers advising councillors to refuse the application, meaning the decision will need to be reaffirmed at a future meeting.
Officers believed there was insufficient information provided, detailing exactly what the building could be used for.
Cllr Louise Emery said: “Llandudno Town Council supported the application, and I’ve spoken to town and county councillors who don’t just want to see something done with a vacant building. They want to see an ambitious redevelopment of this site with indoor leisure, food hall dining experiences with retail.
“The football in the town of Llandudno has shifted from Mostyn Street to the two retail parks. We need to give residents and visitors a reason to come back to the high street. They will want to go, rather than need to go. Retail plays such an important part in the offer to visitors, and I can assure you the high-street businesses that I have talked to are desperate to see the redevelopment of this site and as mixed use.”
Cllr Emery then said the building had already been marketed for two years without success before being bought by the current applicant.
Cllr Mandy Hawkins said: “We so desperately need the building reopened again and used to create local jobs for residents, which is so important and to help the surrounding businesses.”
But after talks of nightclubs, cinemas, and even a casino opening at the former store, Cllr Stephen Price had concerns.
“Would they be able to apply for an event licence and therefore hold an all-day disco or an all-night disco?” said Cllr Price.
“It has also been suggested that a casino could go in there. So the articles of association that are not being submitted in respect of what they’re doing gives me great concern, and if we go ahead with this, then we are actually setting a precedent on an a nefarious assumption that it is just going to be a cafe. So I’ve got concerns that we may be incurring a long-term problem.”
Council officers then confirmed any such plans would be subject to the additional licences needed.
Cllr Dave Jones then said: “Llandudno’s Mostyn Street has seen a marked fall in football in comparison to the shopping centres outside the town, so I think we really have to look at this seriously and do something to make sure we save our high street.”