NEW life is being breathed into an empty former department store in Keighley.

And it is hoped the scheme could provide a catalyst for more similar initiatives to bring vacant units across the town centre back into use.

That's the hope of Airedale Shopping Centre boss Steve Seymour, who says he is positive about the future for the town and feels it is "moving forward".

The Department for Work and Pensions will occupy the ground floor of the ex-Beales premises, at the corner of Low Street and Hanover Street.

Work is ongoing at the site and the Department has applied to Bradford Council for changes including the creation of new shop fronts and access ramps. The entrance will be off Low Street.

The Beales store closed in March last year after the 139-year-old business went into administration.

Mr Seymour welcomed the redevelopment of the prominent site, which is next door to the shopping centre.

"It's good to see it being brought back into use," he said.

"It is a 1960s building which was in need of redeveloping.

"Unfortunately no one has been found yet to take the first floor, which faces into the mall.

"But any redevelopment in the town centre is good news. And hopefully we will see a second phase for the Beales site soon."

He added: "We are moving forward. Footfall is up – and I'm very upbeat and positive about the prospects for 2022.

"Hopefully this scheme might also spark something in relation to the vacant neighbouring Marks & Spencer unit and the empty properties in North Street and Cavendish Street. It could provide a catalyst ­– sometimes you just need that trigger."

The Department for Work and Pensions revealed in May that it was planning to open a new job centre in Keighley.

Facilities are currently based at Worth House, in Worth Way.

Also included in the plans were two new centres in Bradford.

And it added that in addition, more than 160 work coaches were being taken on across the district.

The work at the Keighley site involves the change of use of 1,500 square metres of retail space to “other professional services”, but the Department declined to expand upon its precise proposals.

Town mayor, Councillor Julie Adams, welcomes the redevelopment of the site – provided it isn't to the detriment of Worth House.

"Bringing the vacant former store premises back into use is great news as long as it doesn't then leave the existing Department for Work and Pensions building empty," she said. "If the new provision is additional, great."

Beales shut all its stores last spring after efforts to find a buyer failed.

The scheduled closure programme was brought forward due to the impact of the pandemic on the retail environment.