A HAMPSHIRE business group has described plans for a major bookshop chain to take over a former clothes shop as 'a testament to our town'.

Romsey and District Chamber of Commerce and Industry has thrown its support behind the proposal for Waterstones to move into the old M&Co unit in The Hundred.

The fashion retailer shut in April last year amid nationwide closures. 

Waterstones shop design manager, Martin Thomas, has submitted a planning application for three signs on the empty store.

Ali Fielder, chamber of commerce president, said: "As a chamber, we proudly represent the diverse array of businesses in our town and its surrounding areas, embracing both our valued members and those engaged with our local community in various ways. We are delighted whenever a new business sets roots here, whether it’s a flourishing independent shop or a well-known national retailer. The arrival of Waterstones is a testament to our town’s appeal as a thriving, economically robust destination that draws visitors from near and far.

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M&Co in The Hundred, Romsey (Image: TVBC)

“In respect of their application for planning permission, we would expect that, as with any new business entering the town, they respect the aesthetics of the town and our community and present themselves in keeping with the existing businesses.”

Romsey Town Council's planning committee was split over the proposal at its meeting on Thursday, June 20. 

Cllr Mark Cooper said: “There's quite a strong objection from the conservation officer on this one. He is quite happy with most of the signs, but we have a policy we have held for many years of not permitting internally illuminated signs in a conservation area. I would say no objection to the application, except for the internally illuminated shop sign which is unacceptable in the conservation area.”

However chairman Cllr John Critchley said: “I disagree, because it's the rear door facing the bus station. I think in view of the situation, it would be quite good for that shop to have an illuminated sign. I don't think it impacts the conservation area.”

It was decided to not submit an objection. Mayor of Romsey John Parker previously said: “Since the closure of Superbook we have been without a specialist bookseller. To have such a prestigious name as Waterstones wanting to come to our town is a positive reflection on Romsey as a thriving shopping destination.”

For more information about the planning application online, search 24/01009/ADVS on Test Valley Borough Council's planning portal. 

Waterstones has been contacted for a comment.