The former Co-Operative Bank on London Street in Southport will become a pop-up art opportunity thanks to the Hypha Studios charity

Plans to open a new burger restaurant and takeaway inside a former bank in Southport town centre have been approved. 

Smack Hamburgers was given planning permission by Sefton Council to convert the former Co-Operative Bank at 20 London Street, creating six new jobs. 

It is further evidence of Southport town centre’s recent resurgence, bringing back into use a building which has been vacant since the bank closed on Monday, 6th June, 2016, one of several banks to close in Southport in recent years.  

The Grand will open on Lord Street this July following a £3million transformation, while two new businesses have just opened inside Wayfarers Arcade on Lord Street as building work continues to transform the former Garrick Theatre / Mecca building, with other new developments also coming to Southport town centre this year.

The proposed opening hours for thew new Smack Hamburgers would be 11am-11pm seven days a week, including Sundays and bank holidays. 

In his report, Sefton Council Chief Planning Officer Derek McKenzie said: “The area remains dominated by retail uses and the introduction of this development to a longstanding vacant unit would make a positive contribution to the overall vitality and viability of the centre. 

“It would not result in an unacceptable cluster of non-retail uses. 

“The proposal is unlikely to cause significant harm to the living conditions of nearby residents and is acceptable in this instance.” 

Mr McKenzie highlighted that the original plans have been improved to make the building more accessible. 

He wrote: “The proposed floor plans have been amended to demonstrate that the main entrance will have an automatic door for accessible purposes. The toilets are shown to be wheelchair accessible and the fire exit door is the existing which has served the use of a bank.”

Conditions were introduced which included that the opening hours must not exceed 11am to 11pm.

The design work is being carried out by Muse Architects in Manchester. 

Earlier this year, the site became home to a pop-up art installation to support the regeneration of the area.

Hypha Studios, which is supported by Arts Council England, offered creatives the chance to make the most of the space from 17th January to 17th April 2022. 

The organisation has a vision of creating ‘leisure-led, cultural high streets of the future’. 

The closure of the Co-Operative Bank in 2016 was part of a trend which has been happening since more customers started using online services. 

Speaking at the time, Liam Coleman, Director Retail and Commercial Bank at The Co-operative Bank, said: “We have always been very clear about the need to reduce the branch network to a size that is consistent with a smaller, sustainable bank as part of our business plan to turn the bank around.

“Although, like all banks, we will need to keep our branch network under review as the switch to digital increases, this is the last stage of significant branch closures as part of the bank’s transformation.” 

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