PLANNING approval has been issued for the refurbishment of the iconic Austins building in the city centre, the Derry News can reveal.

The department store, which has stood in the heart of Derry’s city centre for 188 years, closed over two years ago with the loss of 53 jobs.

It was opened by Thomas Austin in 1830 and remained in his family until the 1970s when it was bought by Derry businessman, Larry Hasson.

In November 2014 the store was placed into administrative receivership.

The receiver, the City Hotel Group, then sold the trading side of the business to Hassonzender Ltd and the store remained open until in March 2016.

However, planning approval has now been issued by Derry City and Strabane District Council last week which will see the ‘refurbishment and restoration’ of the vacant listed building, with the new rear extension to the upper floors.

The work also includes the re-design of the shop front with ‘traditional materials and appearance’, while the offices on the fourth floor of the building will be changed to accommodate retail floor space.

The planning application was lodged by the Austins Regeneration Trust Limited.

Speaking to the Derry News earlier this week, Brendan Duddy of the City Hotel Group said that they were pleased to have secured the approval for the refurbishment.

However, he said that there had been ‘no progress’ made in putting the building back into use.

“We got the planning approval secured last week, so we’re delighted with that,” Mr Duddy said.

“Unfortunately, there has been no movement with getting the building back into use.”

Mr Duddy also told the Derry News that there was no plans for the building to be used for accommodation, namely apartments.

“Not to my knowledge, no,” he continued.

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