More than 1,000 letters of support and the threat of a protest march are being credited with the go-ahead being given for a pizza parlour in Malmesbury.

The planning application to convert 2 High Street and 1-1a Oxford Street into a pizza restaurant and deli was submitted by Wild Food Company owner Stewart Shape in December last year.

Despite neighbours and representatives submitting 1,153 letters in favour of the restaurant, and only 16 against, Wiltshire Council took longer than expected to make a planning decision.

Last week, frustrated with the delay, Mr Shape and his supporters were in talks about organising a march from Malmesbury to Wiltshire Council offices in Monkton Park, Chippenham.

Mr Shape said: “We got the result. It was the threat of the march that did it in the end. It’s vital for the town and, more importantly, demanded as a business.

“I hope to start building work next week, to be finished by the end of May. The town can breathe a sigh of relief.”

The Wiltshire Council planning report said: “The proposed development would be acceptable on its planning merits as it would have minimal impact on the listed building and its setting, would not unduly harm the amenities of neighbouring residents or locality and would not be detrimental to highway safety.”

The restaurant’s kitchen will be in 1a Oxford Street, with a new door opening through to 1 Oxford Street and 2 High Street. It will also feature a delicatessen.

Mr Shape hopes his Pizza Express-style restaurant will offer Malmesbury residents an alternative to food currently offered in the town, and will bring in people from further afield.

During his wait for planning permission, Mr Shape offered local artists the chance to showcase their work for free in his building. Art from residents including Luke Hollingsworth is on display and for sale.