Used car dealerships in Leigh on ‘downward spiral’ as developers eye land for flats

The owner of a used car dealership in Leigh has said that businesses in the area are on a ‘downward spiral’ as developers look to regenerate the area with blocks of flats.

The comments came after Southend Council received the second planning application in under six months to transform a car showroom on London Road in Leigh into flats.

Bob Johnson, 59, owner of the dealership Johnsons of Leigh explained the area has become attractive to developers and used-car businesses are slowly being pushed out.

He said: “The used-car dealership business is on a downward spiral and people are very keen to develop car sites along London Road. That’s the way it is going.

“The road as it was is changing and I think that’s what the council wants.”

Mr Johnson explained there was once a time when London Road was seen as one of the best spots for buying a used car and almost every make and model was available at the dealerships spread across the area, but that era is quickly fading.

He added: “There is a value in the land that the cars sit on and businesses are being pressurised. It is not easy running a used car business in a busy residential area and it is a national transition.

“Like how the supermarkets have swallowed up smaller shops and hence the high streets are dying, it seems society wants to shop outside of the residential areas.”

The latest planning application is to transform the Estuary Cars showroom, which the developer claims in planning documents has had a “negative impact” on the area.

Under the plans, the existing building will be redeveloped into a part two-storey and part three-storey flat block comprised of nine apartments, eight of which would have one bedroom and one would have two.

It is unclear from the plans whether any of these would be ‘affordable’ but the plans note that they will be “fully accessible” for people with disabilities and “more than respect neighbouring amenity and outlook”.

In addition to the flats there will be eight parking spaces and cycle storage.

The developer says the area needs development because while the town centre has seen several improvements, London Road “continues to see commercial units empty” and “residential demand along this highly sustainable route remains high”.

At the end of June another application was received by the council to redevelop the Bransons showroom, less than half a mile from Estuary.

The plans will be discussed by councillors at a development committee meeting on Wednesday and the planning team has called for that application to be rejected. The team says the 14 flat proposal will harm the character and appearance of the street.

Estuary Cars was asked what the latest application means for the future of their business but the company did not respond.


Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter