SUSPICIOUS councillors smelt a rat when a cafe banned from expansion tried to set up a new business next door - selling tables and chairs.

Members of Southend Council’s development control committee gave the bid by the owners of Forty Two, in Broadway, Leigh, short shrift when it came before them.

The cafe is based in the back of its building and banned from using the front for serving customers.

But its owners asked for planning permission to convert the front into a shop which would display tables and chairs for sale.

Chris Walker, a Tory councillor for Eastwood Park, said: “Call me a cynic, but I don’t believe this shop is going to be used for selling.

“I cannot see this as a serious application.”

Mike Grimwade, Lib Dem councillor for Prittlewell, added: “I’m also very suspicious about this.

“The fact it is for tables and chairs - that just doesn’t ring true to me.”

Government planning inspectors granted permission for part of the building in which the cafe as based to be used for selling food and drink in 2008.

However, in order to preserve the shopping frontage of the Broadway, they insisted the front of the building would have to remain a store and no tables or chairs could be placed there.

In their application, the cafe’s owners claimed they had been approached by a furniture business which was interested in using the space to display its goods.

However, councillors said there was no way they could control which customers would be genuine visitors to the shop and which would be visiting the cafe.

The business’s owners are already being pursued through the courts by council chiefs for previously flouting the ban on using the front of the building.

Councillors threw out the application on the grounds it would undermine the previous decision by planning inspectors.

No one from Forty Two was available for comment.