New Taco Bell restaurant 'will make a real difference to vibrancy' of town

A building and a taco

Taco Bell is looking to move in to the former McDonalds building in London Road North, Lowestoft - Credit: Archant/PA

Business leaders, shop owners and customers have welcomed plans that could see an international chain invest in a town centre. 

More than a year after another big name departed the high street in Lowestoft, US giant Taco Bell is looking to open a restaurant in its place.

Taco Bell

Taco Bell is set to open a new restaurant. - Credit: PA

The closure of the McDonald's restaurant on the main approach to Lowestoft town centre in April last year had left a major site ripe for redevelopment on London Road North.

In September, change of use plans were given the go-ahead to turn vacant offices into eight new flats or apartments above the former McDonald's restaurant.

East Suffolk Council granted Prior Approval, under delegated powers at the time, for a development that will see retail and takeaway uses retained at the ground floor, with apartments to the first and second floors.

Now, T Bello Group Limited has submitted a full planning application and associated express advertisement consent application for a building that has been empty for more than a year.

The proposed elevations for the Taco Bell restaurant in Lowestoft.

The proposed elevations for the Taco Bell restaurant in Lowestoft. - Credit: Hone Edwards Associates

Beamish Planning Consultancy, on behalf of T Bello Group Limited, has lodged plans with East Suffolk Council for the "currently vacant ground floor commercial premises" at 35 London Road North.

Two applications - one for an extraction system and another for illuminated signage - are currently awaiting decision.

A letter from the agents to the council states: "The premises are currently vacant, having until recently been occupied by McDonalds.

"The lawful use of the premises is therefore for sui generis purposes, comprising elements of both restaurant and hot food takeaway usage."

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Taco Bell is an American-based chain of fast food restaurants that specialises in Mexican-inspired cuisine.

The opening of the new Taco Bell in Regent Road, Great Yarmouth.

Back then - the opening of Taco Bell in Regent Road, Great Yarmouth. - Credit: Archant

It previously had a restaurant in Great Yarmouth, which shut permanently in 2020 - just over a year after opening - in what was described as a "tough but unavoidable" position.

Having been in Lowestoft town centre for more than 35 years, the closure last year of McDonald's shocked business leaders, prompting East Suffolk Council to liaise with Lowestoft Vision – the town’s business improvement district (BID) - and developers over the "large vacant premises".

This week, a spokesman for East Suffolk Council said: “We welcome this new investment in Lowestoft which will complement our ambitious plans to transform the town centre, introduce new leisure uses and increase footfall.

"This is a prominent building at the gateway to the main retail area of London Road North and its occupancy will make a real difference to the overall vibrancy of Station Square.

“Developments such as this support our wider strategic vision as set out in the Lowestoft Town Investment Plan and align strongly with the £25m investment in the town centre, being delivered through multiple Towns Fund projects which all have a strong focus on leisure, cultural and heritage.”

Danny Steel, chair of Lowestoft BID.

Danny Steel, chair of Lowestoft BID. - Credit: Danielle Booden

Danny Steel, chairman of Lowestoft Vision, said: “A new business coming to Lowestoft is always a real boost for our town for visitors and locals alike.

"A national chain like Taco Bell will have recognised the fantastic opportunities on offer in our town centre, and it is great to see another vacant unit being filled.”

A Lowestoft Town Council spokesman said they welcomed "any investment in the high street which will bring new employment and improve the town centre experience for residents and visitors to the town."

'It can only be positive'

For shoppers and business owners in Lowestoft town centre, the proposals have been well received.

Matt Goddard, managing director of Picture Studios in Lowestoft and Norwich.

Matt Goddard, managing director of Picture Studios in Lowestoft and Norwich. - Credit: Picture Studios

Matthew Goddard, managing director of Picture Studios - a popular photography studio on London Road North - said: "Personally I think it is a great addition to the town.

"Lowestoft has a few larger vacant units now which will always be harder to find new businesses that would be interested in them.

"Taco Bell being a national chain and taking over the old McDonalds will hopefully be a pull to drawing people and other businesses into the town centre.

"It can only be a positive! Town centres are starting to evolve.

"We will hopefully see more leisure and service type businesses taking residence and changing the way people use the town centres."

Bernard Ladd, 70, from Lowestoft, said the proposed restaurant would "encourage more people" into the town.

"It can only be good for the town centre and it would be nice to have a new, national chain take over such a prominent, empty building," he said.