SHOPPERS in the habit of heading elsewhere for their retail therapy fix will be tempted to stay and spend their cash in Hastings.
A major new extension to Priory Meadow shopping centre, given the go-ahead last week, aims to add to the growing local retail scope.
Along with new shops, which have yet to be announced, the new first floor mall will lead customers to an area planned to accommodate restaurants and cafes.
The units currently occupied by Dorothy Perkins and Topshop will also be extended to the rear.
Escalators and stairs will lead to the new mezzanine-style first floor above the north-eastern end of the mall, which contains Marks and Spencer as the centre's 'anchor store'.
At a meeting of Hastings Council's planning board last week, members were keen to support the application, submitted by Priory Meadow (Hastings) Ltd.
Cllr David Hancock said: "I'm relieved this is a reasonable application which seems to be doing all the things we want in terms of regeneration for Hastings.
"It will increase the town centre's shopping facilities, which is what we want, and matches all the other criteria we have to look at. I look forward to seeing this interesting development take shape."
Cllr Bob Hart added the plans were 'a welcome endorsement' of the town's on-going efforts to grow and revitalise.
Cllr Michael Bigg said: "I think this is really significant and is exactly the sort of investment we've been waiting for in the town centre.
"It proves we have moved forward with our regeneration proposals and it's making Priory Meadow more and more viable for businesses considering coming to Hastings.
"We should all be applauded for this, I think we deserve a pat on the back."
However, Cllr Peter Finch was quick to put things into perspective. He placed a question mark over whether the new investment was being used wisely.
"When the shopping centre was first built, one of the things insisted upon was that Marks and Spencer get involved. But what have we got now? A C-grade store. All the others in the area are far better.
"If this extension allowed Marks and Spencer to extend and upgrade, I would endorse it all the more."
The application was given unanimous approval by the planning board.
After the meeting, self-confessed Hastings 'shopaholics' Kaylena Hubbard, 18, of Marina, and Cathy Bird, 19, of Holmesdale Gardens, said they would give Hastings a second look when the extension took place.
"All the best places to shop are in Eastbourne, Brighton and Kent," said Cathy. "But Hastings is getting there. A few more shops could make it much better."