Shoppers can look forward to two new department stores and a Pizza Express in Skipton from Easter next year.

The £8.5 million Albion Place development off the High Street – the largest town centre development in more than 20 years – is set to breathe new life into the town.

It will feature a large Next clothes and home store over two floors and a Dawsons department store, also over two floors, selling a range of household items.

Also included in the High Street part of the development, now nearing the final stages before being fitted out, will be Chevin Cycles, over two floors, and Pizza Express, featuring balconies at the front and outside seating at the rear.

Chevin Cycles, based in Otley, will be hoping to cash in on the enthusiasm for cycling generated by this summer’s Grand Depart of the Tour de France, which will pass directly past its floor-to-ceiling front windows.

The shop will have more than 3,000 square feet of bikes, clothing and accessories over the two floors, and there will be a dedicated state-of-the-art “bike fitting suite” and a fully equipped workshop .

Behind the High Street shops, and also accessed via a walkway off the High Street, will be a large public space with stepped seating, leading onto Jerry Croft and Albion Place.

It is hoped that the seating – enclosed as it will be by buildings – will become a safe place for groups of schoolchildren visiting Craven Museum to have their lunch.

The walkway could also see opportunities for the rear of the museum and town hall – where steps will be made to improve the appearance.

Steps to improve pedestrian safety along Jerry Croft are also to be introduced, including bollards and traffic calming.

Cotswold Outdoor will also be opening at the rear of the site close to Marks and Spencer, while it is understood that both Pavers Shoes and Cotton Traders are close to finalising details with the developers.

It is the largest town centre development to take place in Skipton since Craven Court was built in the 1980s and includes the demolition of the unloved former clinic at 9 High Street, almost exactly 50 years after it originally went up.

But the project has not had the easiest of rides for the developers, Maple Grove, a division of the Eric Wright Group.

Argos, originally signed up for the project, but pulled out in March, 2012, as did Brantano Shoes.

The initial scheme was rejected by Craven District Council, which had selected Maple Grove as its development partner in the important Skipton redevelopment scheme, which in itself was vastly scaled down.

An amended scheme was similarly rejected by councillors but approved in June, 2012 by a government inspector, who said it would breathe new life into the town by offering a broader range of shops to both residents and visitors and improve Skipton’s vitality and viability.

Now, the development, set to create around 150 jobs, is on schedule to be completed in time for Easter. Scaffolding has come down and windows are being installed – making the development watertight and allowing shopfitting to take place.

Graham Pilkington, senior development surveyor with Maple Grove, and with the project since its early beginnings, said just one small coffee-shop-size unit was left to be taken up.

Mr Pilkington was confident shops would all be open by Easter and confirmed factors such as poor weather over the winter had been taken into account.

He also added it was likely that the company would sell the development on once it was completed.

“Albion Place will offer something new to a thriving town at the gateway to the Dales,” he said.

“It is an exciting project that will provide people in Skipton and beyond a modern shopping and dining experience in a high quality environment.”

Craven councillor, Simon Myers, the council’s lead member for enterprising Craven, said: “I am pleased that the development is on schedule and that the units will be completed and businesses trading by Easter.

“The investment by Maple Grove is one of a very small number taking place nationally at the moment and I hope it will bring new employment opportunities and a real boost to the local economy.”