A FORMER bank could be transformed into a new restaurant if plans are approved.

The building, in West Street, Rochford, once housed a NatWest branch but closed in July last year.

Now Wentworth Developers is hoping permission will be granted to convert the former bank into a new restaurant at the heart of Rochford’s town centre.

The application lays out plans to convert both floors of the two-storey building for use as a restaurant or cafe.

It promises to be in keeping with the existing facades in the square and provide employment opportunities for Rochford residents.

Andrew Hunt, who submitted the application, said: “Our development would create employment opportunities and amend overall use of untenanted space.

“The change of use would warrant a more effective use of the space and match current government initiatives supporting localised entrepreneurship.”

But there is concern that the building will be targeted by international chains.

Jared Chin-A-Loy, 40, is chairman of the Rochford Chamber of Trade and hope the building will be filled by an independent, locally-based business, rather than a chain.

Mr Chin-A-Loy, who works as an accountant in Rochford and has lived in the town for most of his life, said: “There aren’t many details available at the moment apart from that they want to change use.

“I think it is always better to have something there rather than an empty unit, so it’s a positive step in that respect.

“The concern is that it will be a big chain but it would be great if it was used by a local business.

“We don’t need another Costa and I don’t feel that it would benefit Rochford much to have a chain restaurant there.

“An independent business would help support the economy of Rochford and bring people to the town.”