A NEW bar in the centre of Romsey is one step closer to opening its doors to customers after plans to revamp the front of the building were approved.

After shutting in 2019, the Santander branch at 14 Market Place is expected to be given a new lease of life after it is transformed into a cocktail dining lounge.

In a nod to the former bank, the bar will be called The Exchange and is set to open this year under a new owner - Naomi Randall.

The Grade II listed building will now feature a hand-painted sign and fabric awning after the proposals were unanimously given the go-ahead at Test Valley Borough Council's (TVBC) Southern Area Planning Committee last night (February 23).

However, plans to include infrared heat lamps and three outdoor lights were scrapped after causing a stir in Romsey Town Council (RTC) and the community.

The local authority also objected to the furniture over concerns it would dominate part of the Market Place used by pedestrians.

But, Ms Randall confirmed today customers will still be able to enjoy outdoor seating. 

Romsey Advertiser:

In a document to TVBC, the town council previously said: "No pedestrian walkway is left between the building frontage and the tables, as is currently the case with other cafes that have a licence to place tables and chairs on Hampshire County Council's attractive pedestrianised piazza."

RTC stressed the fabric awning looked "overbearing", adding it should be "folded away" when not in use.

Criticising the heat lamps, RTC believed the devices would "use a large amount of power" and branded them as "not environmentally-friendly" and "unsustainable".

One resident who lives in Greatbridge Road, Clive Collier, objected to the plans over the heat lamps and the applicant's aim to change the colour of the building.

He said: "To mount two infrared heaters and spotlights to the fascia would be inappropriate; [it] would glare in the faces of those walking in the Market Place [and is] totally out of keeping on a listed building.

"The front of this building has been painted white for many years and to now change the whole colour to 'railings' would result in a change to the character of the area."

Romsey Advertiser:

However, the shopfront colour was quickly changed from black gloss to off white to ensure the bar fits in with the town's design.

This comes after Ms Randall told the Advertiser it is a "dream come true" for her to open a venue in her hometown.

She said she wanted to offer "something a little different" to customers, adding: "The Exchange will be a great place for people who are looking for a new experience, with interesting food, exciting cocktails and a buzzing atmosphere."

The owner previously she was expecting to open the bar in late January, but understood this date could change depending on coronavirus restrictions.

The Exchange will serve British and Mediterranean dishes from brunch through to dinner.

Beers and wines will also be sold at the bar, which can be enjoyed alongside live music and experience events.