Councillors have granted permission for food to be sold from the former Debenhams store – opening up the way for Marks & Spencer to return to Stevenage.

According to plans submitted to Stevenage Borough Council in March – the site on the Roaring Meg retail park is set to become a giant 9,475 sqm M&S store.

The Comet: Debenhams, Roaring MegDebenhams, Roaring Meg (Image: Archant)

It would, according to the plans, be split over two floors and would offer a full range of M&S goods – including a food hall and a café.

But crucially, as well as some external alterations to the building, it would require permission for ‘the sale of food not associated with a café or restaurant’.

On Thursday (May 27), the proposals were given the green light by a meeting of the council’s planning and development committee.

And that decision has been welcomed by leader of the council Cllr Sharon Taylor.

“This is a real boost for Stevenage, and a vote of confidence in our plans to regenerate the town,” she said.

“We look forward to welcoming Marks & Spencer back to Stevenage along with the job opportunities they will create for local people.”

Meanwhile the council’s executive member for environment and regeneration Cllr John Gardner said: “This is fantastic news for the Stevenage area and will aid our post-COVID recovery plans.

“This planning decision will help to bring even better local jobs and exciting employment opportunities to our town.”

The flagship store – in the Roaring Meg retail park – was closed earlier this year, when Debenhams went into administration.

According to documents submitted with the planning application, that would have led to the loss of around 70 jobs.

But, say the documents attached to the application, M&S – which vacated its previous Stevenage store in 2014 – could create up to 150 new part-time and full-time jobs.

However, the ability to operate a food hall element was said to be fundamental to the company’s interest in a new store in Stevenage.

At the meeting, it was reported that there had been 132 people had contacted the council to express their support for the proposal.

A further application seeks to alter the car park – including a new link road, new cycle parking facilities, trolley bays and electric vehicle charging points.

The application was submitted on behalf of Stevenage Retail Limited - owners of the Roaring Meg.