THE conversion of the former HSBC bank in Knutsford into a new branch of a popular artisan bakery chain is one step closer.

Earlier this year GAIL's submitted planning applications to transform the former Princess Street bank, which closed on June 6, into a shop and café.

Initially, the bakery chain had been looking at converting the former La Boutique d'Or premises in King Street, but these plans were withdrawn in favour of the site on the corner of Princess Street and Regent Street.

Separate applications, one for advertisement consent on new shop signage and one for the alterations needed for the conversion, were being considered by Cheshire East Council.

Now council planners have approved the advertisement consent application.

A decision is yet to be reached on the proposals to alter the building and facilitate GAIL's taking over the site.

The alterations include: the creation of a timber decking outdoor seating area; removal of the ATM and creation of a new access door in Princess Street; installation of a new fire escape door to the rear; and the installation of wall-mounted lights, a hand-painted sign and extraction grilles.

A covering letter, prepared by Planning Potential on behalf of the applicants, says: "These proposals seeking external alterations to facilitate GAIL’s occupation of the site represent a positive enhancement to a currently vacant unit forming part of Knutsford town centre’s primary shopping area.

"The proposed use and works would be entirely in accordance with national policy guidance and the East Cheshire development plan.

"The proposed alterations to the building are entirely complimentary to the building, its commercial surroundings and situation within the Knutsford conservation area.

A GAIL's spokeswoman added: "We’re really excited as we look forward to expanding to the North West this year.

"We’re in the midst of looking at a few different properties at the moment and we will continue to have conversations with the neighbourhoods surrounding these areas and will share more information when we have confirmation."

To view the application for alterations to the building, search reference 23/1884M on the council's online planning portal.