ONE of Taunton's largest shops is bucking the trend of retail decline by expanding yet again.

Calverts furniture store in Station Road has submitted a change of use planning application to open up a vacant shop floorspace and convert the two flats above into a shop.

The application, which will be considered by the newly-formed Somerset West and Taunton Council, says the firm wants to connect the floorspace and the first floor flats "by making selective openings between the spaces".

It adds: "It is hoped that giving this empty unit a purpose will improve the street scene and neighbourhood."

The premises in question is 102 Station Road, part of Calverts' buildings running from number 94 to 108.

The proposals comprise of "remodelling works and a small infill extension on the first floor only".

The internal walls of unit 102 will be demolished to create a larger open shop floor on both floors.

A proposed extension included in the plans would not be visible from the street and "so will have no impact".

The application statement adds: "The materials used however will match with those of the surrounding buildings.

"The proposal also incorporates a lantern rooflight which will not be visible from the street.

"The use of the ground floor shop will remain unchanged as a retail space. The first floor however will change from residential to retail use."

A Calverts store was originally established in Sunderland by the great grandfather of current managing director Dennis Calvert.

Mr Calvert's parents set up in Taunton in November 1944, a year before the end of the Second World War at number 96 Station Road - it needed £32 a day to break even and took £8 on the first day.

The company has since swallowed up several neighbouring stores, including Percy and Taylor, the town's first electrical shop; a Czech cafe; a newsagent; a fresh fish shop; a hairdresser's; a business selling weighing machines; Poole's the ironmonger; and Pitman the Butcher.

The company originally owned seven cottages, although most of them have since been knocked down to make way for a car park.

And while the original store was 1,200 sq ft, the current business is almost 25,000 sq ft.

It has a large and loyal customer base across the South West, but has also made deliveries to London and Paris and sent orders to South Africa and New Zealand.