A RESTAURANT that never had much success on Witney High Street will be turned into three flats, with a promise they will be aimed at young professionals.

The former Thai Bangla restaurant at 79 High Street, will be gutted and turned into the flats, one of which will be built into a new extension to the back of the building.

Several businesses have tried to make a go of the restaurant, but none have lasted long.

The building’s current owner, Nathan Pathmanathan, said the restaurant has become ‘commercially unviable’.

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In sent a letter to West Oxfordshire District Council’s lowlands planning committee, he added: “Numerous restaurants have opened at this site and been forced to close over the last 15 years due to the site being unsuitable for this purpose.”

Instead, he said using it as flats could provide affordable homes for young people currently priced out of the housing market.

Mr Pathmanathan added: “Young professionals often with student debt cannot afford expensive rents of larger houses. Our property not only provides affordable housing it also provides excellent accommodation to support local businesses.”

He argued that supermarkets and other shops down the street would have guaranteed customers from people living in the flats, and no car parking was needed due to the close proximity to the shops.

Council officer Miranda Clark told the committee that the listed building would be in better use as homes instead of in its current derelict state.

She also added that nearby public car parks were available if someone living there did own a vehicle.

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Oxfordshire County Council, which manages roads throughout the county, did not see any problems with adding new homes to the high street without parking spaces.

A previous version of the plans had included a much larger extension behind the grade II listed building, but the newly proposed extension is much smaller and does not loom over the site in the same way.

Councillors on the planning committee approved the plans unanimously and were in agreement it would help to revitalise the building after the string of failed restaurants it hosted.

Witney East councillor Duncan Enright said: “It is an important building actually. It is an important site in the middle of Witney.

“The key consideration to me is to make sure these are liveable units and the historic site and design is in keeping.”

Duncan Enright, pictured in Witney in 2020. Picture: Ed Nix

Duncan Enright, pictured in Witney in 2020. Picture: Ed Nix

Witney North councillor Richard Langridge added: “Like Councillor Enright I have had many very nice meals there, but nothing survives there very long.”

He also added he had concerns about the lack of parking and contested the view of Oxfordshire County Council that spaces were not needed.

According to Historic England 75 to 79 High Street in Witney are all grade II listed buildings.

The list says they were built in the early 18th century from ‘coursed limestone rubble’ and have been altered over the years.

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There is also mention on the list of ‘a former blanket-making factory’ to the rear of the building.

Thai Bangla, the restaurant which last occupied the building, appears to have had good reviews before it closed.

There are two remaining reviews on Yelp.com, both of which rate the restaurant at five stars.