County planners have today given a senior council officer power to approve a £3.4m plan to turn the Riverside market in Haverfordwest into a new library, gallery and cafe.

Councillors voted unanimously to approve the recommendation that the head of planning be granted power to approve the development following the end of the consultation period.

The site will become home to the new county library, art and exhibition gallery, play and learn facilities, a tourist information centre, and coffee shop.

It will be part of the ‘culture-led’ regeneration of the town centre.

David Popplewell, chief planning officer at Pembrokeshire County Council, said: “This proposal is a major part of the Haverfordwest masterplan.

“It will be a catalyst for the regeneration of the town centre.

The new library will feature a number of glazed reading pods which will extend onto the overhanging walkway by the river.

“The extension represents a modern enhancement on the building and the area. The glazed element will allow reflections in the river,” said Mr Popplewell.

Planning committee chairman, Peter Stock, said he was sad about the loss of the market hall. “I will continue to push to have other buildings in the town centre that could be a market hall,” he said.

The £3.4m scheme, supported by Welsh Government funding of £285,000, will feature a ‘ground-breaking’ partnership with the National Library of Wales.

The plans were unveiled at the official launch of the county council’s Haverfordwest regeneration scheme in April.

Mike Cavanagh, council head of cultural services, said then: “There are many examples where this approach has successfully added vibrancy and vitality to an area, acting as a catalyst and focus for the transformation of towns and cities,” he said.

Mr Cavanagh said he hoped the new building would entice families who do not currently use libraries, and that comprehensive IT facilities would help combat ‘digital exclusion’.

It is hoped the facility will open in October 2017.

The town’s current library facilities have been ‘temporarily’ housed at the former youth club building for three years.