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February 28th, 2013 |

Cafe/ Restaurant Use Refused In Rayleigh High Street

The District Council has tonight refused planning permission for a change of use in Rayleigh High Street.

The application was for no. 74 High Street, which until recently was Johnsons Dry Cleaners. This is a retail use, and the application was to change it to restaurant/cafe use. In fact, it would have become a Pie and Mash shop.

Officers were recommending approval, but councillors refused it on the grounds of it being against our council retail policy of at least 75 % retail use in the town centre….

64 Responses to “Cafe/ Restaurant Use Refused In Rayleigh High Street”

  1. 1
    bruce smart:

    A good decision. Many people I speak to do not like the trend of more eating places and bars in the town centre. The risk is that we lose retail outlets and end up as a town with only a night economy. We have enough cafes, restaurants and bars now. Well done RDC.

  2. 2

    Some people would rather have a high street filled with open businesses (shops or not) than empty retail premises.

  3. 3
    Chris Black:

    Sean, probably everyone “would rather have a high street filled with open businesses (shops or not) than empty retail premises.”

    But most councillors felt that to keep a viable town centre we need a high percentage of retail.

    Though opinion was split, and split cross-party as well. Of the 4 Lib Dems:
    I voted for refusal and in fact seconded the motion.
    Chris and June Lumley voted for refusal.
    Ron voted against refusal – he said ‘very reluctantly’ he was in favour of allowing the application.

    Whether or not it stays empty probably depends on the kind of rent that the landlord will ask for.

  4. 4
    Christine Paine:

    The pet shop in Eastwood Road is closing shortly. There seem to be a few empty shops at the Iceland end of the High St. I do agree that we need emphasis on retail for a viable High St, but boarded up shops, if they start to proliferate, give a depressing air to the whole area and eventually people don’t want to come any more. It is noticeable sometimes how quiet the High, even on a Saturday morning when you would expect it to be busy. I think allowing non retail use, but perhaps on only a short lease, until retail picks up again (if it ever does!) would at least give a more attractive look to the High St. than empty shops do.

  5. 5
    bruce smart:

    Businesses i.e retail are put off by the high rents in Rayleigh High Street. Surely market forces should be allowed to apply. Shops will open when the rents fall to viable levels. How long has the old Oxfam shop been empty? Why has been empty for so long?

  6. 6
    Christine Paine:

    That is true Bruce, but I am guessing that most of the properties in Rayleigh that are rented are not owned by private landlords who will listen to reason and are happy to get some rent rather than an empty liability, but by property companies, pension funds, that type of organisation, who just don’t care. They set a rent and people pay it or don’t – end of story. Presumably Oxfam left when their lease expired, which indicates the rent went too high for them.

  7. 7
    bruce smart:

    My understanding is that the Oxfam shop left due to potential rent rise but not sure as Oxfam seem to be cutting its number of shops. e.g Hamlet Court Road, and the Rayleigh one was not as well supported as it might have been. Will not explain why I think this.

  8. 8
    Ian Jordan:

    If a pie & mash shop was ok further up the High St before it closed down, why not a another one further along the High St?

  9. 9
    Chris Black:

    Good question, but if I remember correctly, there was previously a Chinese takeaway there, so it wasn’t a change of use.

    And it did close down. I don’t know if that’s significant, but I wonder how many daytime eating places Rayleigh can support.

  10. 10

    The underlying issue seems to be the level of rents charged – Toys n Tuck being the latest to go for that reason. Who actually owns the properties on the High Street – is it the Council or a private entity? If the Council, then surely it should be acting with a bit more commom sense given the underlying economic realities. Ignoring the point that empty units do not exactly help attract businesses to the town, it must make more sense to have a tenanted unit paying some sort of rent rather than a vacant one paying nothing.

  11. 11
    Ian Jordan:

    I would prefer market forces would allow business to set up, if somebody thinks they can run a café or bar with other bars in the area it should not be the Council that stops them. If the Council wanted people to shop in Rayleigh then the parking charges would be free for the first two hours & only charge for long stays.

  12. 12
    Canterbury Close Resident:

    I heard strong rumours a Subway franchise was looking at the premises?

  13. 13
    Christine Paine:

    You’re right Chris. It was a Chinese takeaway before it was the pie and mash shop.

    Whatever happens I just hope it isn’t another barbers/hairdressers shop. I wonder how many more of those Rayleigh can support – they seem a bit over represented at the moment.

  14. 14

    Ouch – the council only own the obvious civic places like the car parks, the civic suite and the Mill.

    The shops are all owned by private entities.

  15. 15
    bruce smart:

    Thanks for all responses as this issue in my opinion is very important for the future of Rayleigh. There must be a limit to the number of cafes the town can support. Fairways next to the Co-op also shut but another has opened next to the school clothes shop. Market forces will apply, some will shut and we will back to empty shops again. the only answer must be lower rent on retail properties.

  16. 16

    The Fairways cafe was marvellously cheap but there was no way they were going to be able to sustain their business at give-away prices.
    The new tea shop you mention Bruce is owned by the same family as The Rayleigh Retreat, so it’s refreshing to see businesses run by Rayleigh families. I hope they do well.

  17. 17
    Rayleigh Resident:

    The old travel agent shop next to the Police Station is currently being advertised at a rent of £19500pa. Once you factor in rates, energy costs, insurance and wages then the costs can be quite prohibitive for a new start up. Perhaps that’s why it’s only the big chains ( Subway etc ) can afford them.

  18. 18
    Richard Levy:

    What is happening to Rayleigh High Street? I counted today and I think I’m right in saying we have (or will have) five empty units. Two adjacent to the Police Station (although not together), Johnsons Dry Cleaners (as per above), the gift shop next to Hotshots and now Toys and Tuck who have posted closing down signs. The only businesses to grab units at the moment are food and 99p/£1 stores. Just look at Southend High Street. Very sad.

  19. 19
    Richard Levy:

    Oh, and Blockbusters of course! Unless Morrison’s bought our store. Does anyone know? I’ve looked on Morrison’s corporate site but no luck.

  20. 20
    Richard Levy:

    And of course I forget the old cafe next to the CO-OP so all in all seven units that are empty or will be empty. Are there any others I’ve forgotten?

  21. 21
    Rayleigh Resident:

    Alison, Fairways is still going, their cafe is opposite the Lords Golf course within the Garden Centre / Builders Yard etc.

  22. 22
    Christine Paine:

    I think it’s 9 empty or about to be in fact. Premier, the mini mart near the Police Station never seems to be open, and as I said earlier, the pet shop in Eastwood Road is going very soon, this weekend I think, oh yes, and the old Pie and Mash shop, I don’t recall seeing anything new go in there, so if that is still empty 10.

    Rayleigh is a nice place to shop. Pleasant, attractive, High St. it feels safe there, and like a lot of people I try to support local shops, but it’s hard to do that if they aren’t there. It would be a great shame to see the High St become like Southend or Wickford, all food, pound shops, estate agents and nail bars and no “proper” shops any more, all because some people want extortionate rents, especially in view of the good that moving the market to the High St. has done. Surely this is something the Chamber of Trade or Council should be trying to raise with property owners to try and encourage businesses to come to Rayleigh.

  23. 23
    Canterbury Close Resident:

    Annas Pet Shop on Eastwood Road next to the closed Card Shop is also due to close as well.

  24. 24
    Rayleigh Resident:

    Richard, you forgot the Pet Shop next to the crossing in Eastwood Road…

  25. 25

    Rayleigh Resident,
    Thanks for the info about Fairways Cafe. I’m very glad to hear that they are still in business. Really nice people.

  26. 26
    Rayleigh Resident:

    Leaving aside the problem of high rents another issue is the traffic getting into the town centre, especially on Saturdays. You can find yourself queuing from the Rayleigh Wier up to the Eastwood Road junction or from the station all the way up to the Crown Hill / High St junction. Makes it that bit more tempting to just park in one of the large supermarkets and get all your shopping there.

  27. 27
    Christine Paine:

    That is very true. The traffic lights just past Eastwood Road junction and the pedestrian crossing at the top of Crown Hill are badly placed and they cause a lot of the problems. Last Saturday I sat for 10 minutes two cars back from Eastwood Road junction while the roundabout was completely jammed up by three buses, one after the other who just blocked the whole thing. It wasn’t helped by roadworks just at the top of Crown Hill but nothing could get round, if the buses had just held back until they could get right round traffic could have flowed down the High St. That whole junction/traffic lights/crossing area is badly planned for traffic flow and causes most of the jams on any given day.

  28. 28
    Canterbury Close Resident:

    Santa Lucia restaurant is also closing this weekend!

  29. 29
    Richard Levy:

    Hi all. I saw the pet shop was gone today. What is happening to Rayleigh? It’s very sad. I don’t even know how many empty units there are. I’ve lost count.

  30. 30
    Chris Black:

    I think the pet shop is a retirement situation…..

    Speaking more generally, yes times are hard for High Streets for economic reasons and also because of the internet. But Rayleigh is still doing better than most (though I know that sounds awfully complacent, and we need to try harder)

  31. 31
    Richard Levy:

    Thanks Chris. I noticed today in King George’s park signs advertising for someone interested in operating the new tea shop coming soon to the sports pavilion. So we have a High Street with give or take, 12 empty units and RDC are opening a new unit in the park. I don’t get it.

  32. 32

    That’s a Town Council proposal….

  33. 33
    Richard Levy:

    I know it’s a little out of ‘our patch’, but I read with interest in the local paper today Lidl are planning to submit a planning application to build a store on the old Safe Store building (and adj land) at the top of Progress Rd where it meets Eastwood Road. Whilst it will be good to see that old building go in favour of something new, I wonder how another big store will effect our High Street. There is a local consultation to the public this coming Thursday.

  34. 34

    Does anyone know why the restaurant Santa Lucia has closed?

  35. 35

    I think they just decided for business reasons to become a venue rather than a restaurant – they are now The Old Parish Rooms

  36. 36

    Thank you. What a loss for the general public, me and my family have had many birthday meals and general lunches there as well as being a place to have a glass of wine or a coffee. It had a very special ambience and the staff were always lovely, as was the food and drink! The jazz evenings were good too. I wish them well but Santa Lucia will be missed!

  37. 37
    Canterbury Close Resident:

    Do they have a website? Or any vacancies???

  38. 38
    Chris Black:

    Lynne, I know it’s a real loss if your favourite eating or drinking place closes. Have you tried Marco’s ? (thats my personal favourite)

    CCR – try this link:

  39. 39
    The Mighty Oz:

    We went twice, the food was fine but after coming out each time with a bill for over 50 quid for pizza for 2 we decided to go elsewhere.

  40. 40
    Laurence Ford:

    I believe the application is from the same person who has the The pie-and-mash shop in Weston Road Southend. It is actually known as ‘The Family Cafe’ and is scrupulously clean, staff are friendly, there’s a variety of meals to choose from, well cooked, quickly served and a good cup of tea. All this at a very reasonable price. Although it differs from most of the trendy bistro/bar/restaurants already in the High Street I think it would be a great attraction for people who prefer a good value, unpretentious Cafe.

  41. 41
    Mike Bolton:

    I’d investigated the possibility of opening a mens clothes shop at the site of the Johnsons dry cleaners. It’s a prime location within the high street for that type of outlet. Next to a pub which shows football too, which is very important for mens fashion retail believe it or not. Unfortunately the numbers didn’t add up when taking in to account rent so I’ve put the idea on hold for the time being, but am watching closely all of the retail outlets in the high street. The Oxfam shop in the wrong part of the high street, not enough passing trade (as I found out sitting on the bench opposite for two full days, a Friday & Saturday and raisin quite a bit of suspicion from the Police station).

  42. 42
    Chris Black:

    Mike, what you have written about the rent is interesting….

    Regarding sitting on the bench for 2 days, that must have required a lot of dedication! I spent 30 minutes standing up watching how many people used certain facilities in Rayleigh Town Centre on the night of the Christmas Lights switch-on, that was enough for me…

  43. 43
    Mike Bolton:

    I must admit at the end of the two days I wasn’t as chirpy as I normally am. I was monitoring the Oxfam site but also the unit directly next to the Police station. The other factor that makes sites desirable is their proximity to banks or atms as they generate more ‘walking’ trade than pretty much any other business. In terms of the Johnsons site it pretty much ticks all of the boxes, but as I said the numbers didn’t add up. I’m not saying the rent was too high but when factored in to a business plan it made the figures very difficult to justify. I must also add it wasn’t the only factor that made me put it on hold.

  44. 44
    Julie Cole:

    I have two businesses in Rayleigh. The Rayleigh Retreat and Coles Vintage Tea Rooms. Both are doing well, but I find it harder to increase any profit margins due to high rates that are governed by the VOA. They estimate what your rent is, then set a rate to match.
    I had rented the derelict small shack in Eastwood road (Coles), rebuilt it totally with my own money to make it presentable, then get penalized by rates for what I have done!!!! Despair or what? When I took it over it was estimated at £50 per month now it is £380!!! I have tried to fight this decision, but a lesson was learnt and my profits, therefore less than projected.
    Not only that, but if you dare to be late with payment to RDC, they sent out vile letters, threatening court proceedings and worse. A little more help from all local councils would be appreciated to allow small businesses a chance. Please!

  45. 45
    Chris Black:

    Julie, many thanks for leaving your comment. I would like to come and see you to discuss things further – I will be in touch…

  46. 46
    Chris Black:

    Julie, I must say I sampled (and paid for!) your excellent sticky ginger cake today and I’m not surprised that the Tea Rooms are doing well!

  47. 47
    Richard Levy:

    I’m a former VOA employee (worked for the agency for 16 years!) so I’d better not say too much about them… anyway… I’ve seen hordings round the former Johnson drycleaners today. Any ideas what coming? Also the former Oxfam and Secrets are both ‘under offer’. I wonder what we’ll be getting. We could do with some more hairdressers!! I also noticed the former toy shop at no. 25 (Toys ‘n’ Tuck) has a planning notice outside for change of use to estate agent. Now, we really do need more of those. The dozen plus in Rayleigh just can’t be enough.

  48. 48
    Richard Levy:

    …and Mike, please keep considering an outlet for a mens clothes store. We really could do with one in Rayleigh. The big stores on the High Street really do cater for the ladies with only a small selection for the men.

  49. 49

    I would like another place to eat like SubWay because all we have is hair dressers. The only place to get good food is greggs

  50. 50
    Canterbury Close Resident:

    I notice another local business looks as if it has gone to the wall. Sandersons School Wear in Eastwood Road has a notice in the window today saying they have ceased trading. The store looks as if it is being packed up inside too and the windows have been stripped. How sad.

  51. 51
    Richard Levy:

    I see just about every vacant unit in Rayleigh has been let or is under offer. Does anyone know what’s coming to the former Johnsons drycleaner site, former Secrets hairdressers, the unit next to the Police Station, the former Oxfam shop and Sandersons? I’m guessing a Carphone Warehouse, Subway and Starbucks to compete with the competition?! Allot of change to the High Street for 2014.

  52. 52
    The Mighty Oz:


    There are two ways of looking at this one. At least firms are taking up the shops instead of, like some places, units staying empty almost indefinitely making the place look run down. We have to accept that the role of the traditional high street is changing. I wonder how many people that bemoan this fact go home and shop on line ?

  53. 53
    Richard Levy:

    Hi Oz. To be honest I wouldn’t mind a Subway and Starbucks, I like both very much. But the format of Rayleigh High Street is repeated over and over so I can’t see any shops that will buck the trend. Even a pound store that is truly a pound store would be a refreshing change.

  54. 54
    The Mighty Oz:

    All, the old Johnsons dry cleaners will be a cafe. The fitting out is well underway but I do not have an opening date.

  55. 55

    The properties are mostly if not all owned by private individuals and companies. Landlords look to get the higher rent and the best tenants in terms of financial status in the same way anyone would when renting their flat or house.

    You cant tell companies where to go, if they think money can be made by moving to the High Street they will.

    People moan about high street rents but its the business rates than kill business, sometimes this can be as much as the rent. Its true to say that people buy online as its cheaper then moan about the prices in shops (higher overheads).

    Everyone likes to have an opinion about about who should be where and what they should sell but it the real world, this means someone else investing money possibly their life savings into new ventures and its really up them to decide where to open a shop and not anyone else.

    Rayleigh in essence is an excellent High Street with virtually no vacant shops, only Elan is currently available as far as I am aware.

  56. 56
    Chris Black:

    DB – thanks for your comment…

  57. 57

    So the old dry cleaners will be a café and the secrets a subway (so I have heard) this is simply insane to have subway favourite chicken grouts fish and chips a café and a pub on one small stretch of road surely this takes the towns food occupancy way above the 75%.
    I understand its better to have filled shops rather than empty shops but more food places is this really something Rayleigh needs. the town is full to the brim of eating places, hairdressers and estate agents why would people venture to Rayleigh when they have all of them in their own towns or closer to their homes

  58. 58
    George Easton:

    To AA:

    Subway work off A1 as I understand it and dont need planning so you cant stop them coming to the Town.

    If people didn’t eat in these establishments they wouldn’t survive. In recent years many retailers have opened and shut. Shoe shops, toy shops and other local retailers have tried and failed.

    If you want to blame anyone for whats in Rayleigh blame the people who shop and eat there.

    For yoru information, its not what Rayleigh needs, its what can survive.

    If you are so sure what Rayleigh needs why dont you open a retail shop?

  59. 59


    Most small retailers cant compete with bulk buying large companies and Rayleigh doesn’t have enough footfall or large enough local population to support small profit margins.

    Hence, service providers and food retailers open up instead.

  60. 60
    The Mighty Oz:

    George & AA,

    You are both spot on, like it or not this is the way High Streets all over the UK are going, and for all the people that moan about it then put your money where your mouth is. Sorry to be harsh but that’s a fact.

  61. 61
    Keith Hudson:


    George Easton
    Re: post 58
    With every respect, I take my hat off to you. Someone advised me to read your post on Chris’s web site, something I rarely do… All I can say is that you have hit the nail squarely on the head in your assessment of the situation. Well done sir!
    Keith Hudson

  62. 62
    Jim Cripps:

    #61 – suggest you read it more often / participate ,as there are a lot of good points made on here , a real indication of the strength of feeling among residents.

  63. 63
    laurence ford:

    Now that more eating places are being planned for Rayleigh High Street, can you please find room for the Pie and Mash/Cafe somewhere?

  64. 64
    Kristian Ives:

    Why refuse a pie and mash shop? I agree with #58 and #61 it would seem. If a planning application were to come along that would be against the public interest for moral reasons fair enough lets all have a moan, but it’s only a restaurant.

    #57 AA – if its a good restuaurant people will come to Rayleigh from other towns as well as Rayleigh, if there’s one thing people will travel for its their bellies. A good dry-cleaners? I’m not so sure.

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