Pizza Express plans its return to Cranleigh

Restaurant chain Pizza Express has set its sights on a return to Cranleigh, following the closure of its branch in the village last year.

Pizza Express was founded in 1965 and taken over by its bondholders under a debt-for-equity swap with previous owner Hony Capital.

They left Cranleigh last year as part of a broader insolvency process known as a company voluntary arrangement, with 73 of the group’s restaurants closed and 1,100 jobs put at risk.

Ettore Pizza opened in the old Pizza Express premises on Cranleigh High Street as an independent pizza restaurant offering hand-stretched pizzas made with high-quality locally sourced ingredients.

Now, Pizza Express has submitted two planning applications for consideration by Waverley Borough Council regarding the old Natwest Bank building in Stocklund Square.

The first application is for change of use of ground floor and external forecourt from a bank (use class A2) to restaurant (use class E, former A2) together with the installation of air-conditioning and extraction unit with associated works.

Pizza Express has applied to Waverley for the erection of a partially covered pergola type structure in a second application.

The plans featured 99 seats inside and 56 seats outside, with the outdoor dining area accessed through aluminium sliding folding doors.

While the former Natwest Bank occupied two units in Stocklund Square, the proposal from Pizza Express only includes Unit 1, the larger of the two units, closest to the Stocklund Square car park.

The building has been vacant since May 2018, when Natwest finally closed.

Within their planning application, Stocklund Square is described as ‘generally windswept and devoid of activity for much of the time’.

According to the application, the proposed outdoor dining area would ‘generate new footfall and human activity in the space’ and ‘promote additional economic interest in the area, more vitality and an element of more security for passers-by and users of the Square.’

Food preparation areas and other facilities are to be located to the rear of the unit. The air handling plant will be accommodated internally, with discrete external vents housed in former window openings.

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