PROPERTY owners are hoping to get the stamp of approval for a new restaurant venture earmarked for Weymouth’s old post office site.

Change of use plans have been lodged with the borough council to give the former general post office in St Thomas Street a new lease of life as a restaurant.

The ground floor of the prominent listed building, which is more than 100 years old, has been empty since January 2013 when the central post office branch moved to brighter new premises further along St Thomas Street.

Business leaders have been monitoring the site with interest to see what a new owner could do with the site, striking a balance between protecting the building’s conservation value while also breathing new life into a large vacant site. The building has now been taken over by a property investment group which believes it will be an ideal site for a restaurant.

Peter Tanner of planning consultants Tanner & Tilley, which is working on the project, said the first hurdle was to get planning permission for change of use and listed building consent to make alterations.

He said he understood the owner would seek tenants to operate a restaurant once planning permission is obtained.

As well as alterations inside, the proposal envisages a single-storey extension to the rear to accommodate the restaurant. Offices upstairs remain unaffected by the plan.

The old post office is a Grade II listed building of Edwardian Baroque style dating from 1907.

Mr Tanner said the protection afforded to the building through listed status means it cannot be converted to a shop as the front is not allowed to be altered for shop display windows.

He believes a restaurant will boost the day and night-time economy and attract more people to that end of town.

His report concludes: “The development will provide sustainable development that will contribute to the local economy, maintaining and promoting the viability and vitality of the town centre whilst preserving the special architectural and historic qualities of the listed building.”

President of the Weymouth and Portland Chamber of Commerce Julie Cleaver said: “We have a lot of restaurants including some fantastic independent ones and we would certainly welcome more business in the town.

“This is a prominent site and I know that in the past national chains have had their eye on it so it will be interesting to see what happens.”