PLANS to divide the former Rackhams House of Fraser department store in Skipton High Street to four individual retail units has been given the go-ahead by North Yorkshire Council.

Officers, using delegated powers, and without the scheme going before councillors, said the plans for 31 to 41 High Street, by Equorium Property Ltd would bring the listed building back into use and enhance the conservation area.

The building has been empty since 2019 following the closure of Rackhams House of Fraser store.

In a delegated planning report, North Yorkshire Council says the site is designated as two grade two listed buildings with several other listed properties in the immediate area including The Red Lion pub and former stables at the back.

"All the buildings have been substantially altered in the past, none have original shop fronts, and most of their interiors have been demolished primarily when they were amalgamated into a single store and when the large flat-roofed block was added at the rear in the mid-20th century," says the report.

Sub-division of the building into four units will include the removal of two internal staircases and the building of three new staircases and a lift; there will be 'modest alterations' to the High Street front, including the repositioning of doors; and existing modern shop fittings will be stripped out. The rear extension will be remodelled and the car park improved.

The front will be made into three shop units and a fourth at the back. The report states: "The proposal to reinstate three separate units will help to reinforce the historic character and legibility of the three separate buildings. The return of the buildings to beneficial retail use is fully supported as it will ensure the restoration and ongoing maintenance of the buildings and restore the vitality of this part of the High Street and the conservation area."

The report continues: "The proposed work to the rear elevation area would result in a considerable enhancement to the appearance and introduce a synergy with the relatively new retail units facing onto the nearby car park at the rear of the town hall.

"On balance, it is considered that the proposed works would result in a visual enhancement to the listed building, its setting and significance with the additional public benefits of bringing the building back into use. It would also enhance the designated conservation area."

In documents submitted with the application, agents for Equorium Property say that the proposal is in response to the 'size of the building and lack of serious viable interest since the House of Fraser operations ceased in 2019'.