A CAR dealership should not be converted into flats, according to town councillors.

Paul Ragan, of Orchard Car Company, London Road, Leigh, plans to retire and close the dealership after 20 years.

He has submitted a planning application to demolish the building at the back of the site and replace it with a twostorey block of eight, two-bedroom flats. Leigh Town Council says it is concerned about the change of use because it wants to maintain London Road’s commercial character.

Richard Herbert, chairman of the council, said: “Throughout Leigh, there is a lot of pressure on building blocks of flats wherever they can and when they do that in a commercial area, you then get a gap between the shops.

“In a commercial setting, this detracts from the overall attractiveness of the area for people to go shopping.

“We feel there are areas where there are more and more gaps between the shops and that affects the viability of the remaining shops.”

Pat Holden, chairman of the council’s planning committee, said London Road was listed as a secondary commercial shopping area, so it is not treated with the same priority as areas like Leigh Broadway.

However, Mr Herbert’s assessment was the general view of the committee.

She said: “We were disappointed there was no retention of the commercial use on the ground floor in the plans, as doing so would maintain the area’s ‘live front’.”

Southend Council has the final say on the application.