Village restaurant under threat from housing plan

Jack Gao and his wife Ting outside their restaurant Offley Oriental

Jack Gao and his wife Ting outside their restaurant Offley Oriental - Credit: Archant

A couple who have run their family business for the past seven years have learnt their restaurant could be demolished and replaced with houses.

Jack and Ting Gao, who run Offley Oriental restaurant on Luton Road, Offley, heard the news two weeks ago after their landlord, Rocco Mingalone, submitted a planning application to North Herts District Council to part demolish and change the use of the existing property to one four-bed house, and to build two four-bed houses.

The couple, who live above the restaurant with their two children, learnt of the news after they had agreed to buy the freehold of the property.

Mr Gao said: “We went through all the paperwork, I had all my money and loan secured and passed by my bank and then at the last minute my landlord told me he didn’t want to sell it.

“I then found out from a customer that a planning application had been submitted and he is planning to build houses here. We are very upset and disappointed.”

Mr Gao, 38, claimed he and his wife had no knowledge of the application to the district council or Mr Mingalone’s intention.

More than 200 people have signed a petition, which the couple will present to planning officers.

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Mr Gao said: “We are being supported by the whole of Offley, which has been great; we are very much a part of the community and feel at home here.

“The restaurant is a thriving community resource, there are no Chinese restaurants in the near vicinity and the village would lose the takeaway service if plans were passed.”

Mr Gao said the area of the village where the restaurant is situated is a historic part of Offley and such a development of a small site would be detrimental to the traditional street scene.

Mr Mingalone, who is co-director of RR Investment Ltd based in Bedford, which owns the freehold of the property, said: “I have submitted the planning application to the council as a back-up. If the business does not prove to be viable in the future then the application would allow me to move forward with my plans.

“I have no intention of getting rid of my tenants as it makes sense for me to receive rent from them rather than have the property sat empty. Mr and Mrs Gao are tied into a long lease and we have a legal agreement.”

Mr Mingalone said he would be pressing ahead with the application, which, if granted, would be valid for three years.

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