Bento Factory Asian food cafe set to expand in Winchester after plans approved

An Asian gourmet cafe in Winchester is set to expand after relocation plans are approved.

Jo Lao of Bento Factory has had a planning application approved to change the use of 3 St Thomas Street from retail to cafe/restaurant.

The plan is to move from their current premises at 1 St Thomas Street to accommodate more customers.

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Bento Factory serves a variety of Asian dishes such as sushi and kimbap. It also serves Vietnamese coffee.

On the application’s planning statement it said: ‘The proposal is to convert the existing retail space into a cafe and restaurant with tables for dining and serving take-out. This space would be intended to house the Bento Factory, which is a successful small business that has grown out of its existing very small premises two doors down the road at number 1.

“The proposed works will provide much needed larger premises for the Bento Factory restaurant/café, very close to their current premises and in a mixed use area containing other similar facilities.

“The program will convert the ground floor of this retail building into a cafe/restaurant, to allow a successful local business to expand into new premises, just a few doors down from their current location. The existing residential use will remain as is on the upper floors.

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“No alterations to the exterior facades are proposed, with only extractor vents on the low rear roof, which is not visible from the street. Minimal internal changes will not significantly affect the listed historic fabric or the character of the building.

“The proposal sensitively converts the existing without materially affecting the setting of the nearby listed buildings or the character of the conservation area while making a positive contribution to a thriving local business.”

The City of Winchester Trust supported the application and said: “We welcome a local business wishing to expand.”

The planning officer’s assessment said: ‘The site currently has commercial use and the owners wish to move their food business, the Bento factory, from No 1 due to a need for additional space.

“The change of use requires some minor internal and external modifications to facilitate the change. Externally the only change is the addition of a flue pipe to the rear of the shed extension roof. This is considered relatively minor and cannot be seen in the wider conservation area.

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