A long-established estate agents will boost a town’s viability when it expands into the next door building, councillors say.

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William H Brown had applied for “change of use” permission to convert 4a Market Place, Dereham, left vacant after Knit Wits moved to the High Street.

The business wants to expand its lettings and mortgage services operations, creating another three full-time positions at its regional head office.

The plans, which went before Breckland Council’s planning committee yesterday, had been recommended for refusal by the authority’s planning officers – but councillors gave William H Brown the go-ahead, saying the expansion would enhance the town and there were “plenty” of other vacant units which could be used for retail.

During the meeting, it was heard that William H Brown had been in the town for 70 years and there were 24 vacant properties in the town centre.

It was also said that expansion would improve disabled access as the main entrance would move from the current location, with four small steps, to the entrance of 4a Market Place. Phillip Duigan, a member of the planning committee and a district councillor for Dereham, said: “William H Brown has been at the site for 70 years if not longer, it’s been there for many years, and they want to expand.

“By turning this down, it would affect the viability of Dereham in a negative way. By granting permission, it’s saying Dereham is open for business and we want successful businesses in.”

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