Flitch Way in Essex ‘in doubt’

THE MAN who turned a disused and abandoned train station into one of Flitch Way’s hidden gems has voiced his concern over the future of the trail.

Robert Branch, who transformed Rayne train station in to a successful restaurant, is worried about Essex County Council’s (ECC) long term plans for Flitch Way.

After his success at Rayne he wanted to do the same to the deserted train station building in Takeley. But ECC was only prepared to give him a year’s lease on the property.

Mr Branch said: “The future of Flitch Way is in doubt as the county council want to sell the properties off so maybe the year’s lease is because they have long term plans.

“The council and I had originally talked about a minimum of three years which was OK because it would give us time to build up a regular client base like we have in Rayne.

“We wouldn’t be able to do that in a year, and if we did the council would have taken the building away from us, so we are not looking at it anymore.”

Along with the year’s lease, Mr Branch said ECC had asked for a large sum of money for the initial set up which would not be made back in the space of a year.

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The parishes and towns that Flitch Way passes through had supported Mr Branch’s proposal.

Dunmow town councillor Trudi Hughes called the county council’s decision “very disappointing” and wants improvements made to Flitch Way.

She said: “A one year lease is, for any business, a deal breaker. I’d hate to see a good idea with potentially significant benefits for a number of communities not come to fruition because if the lease is to just run for a year, it could be a significant impediment and risk to investment on the part of anyone considering setting up a cafe there.

“For Dunmow residents using Flitch Way, provision of such a facility at Rayne makes a welcome ‘destination’ to stop and recharge batteries.

“If someone wants to start up a similar facility at Takeley, which is a similar distance west of Dunmow the same benefits could accrue.

“If the county get to the point of considering disposal for this building, I’d ask them to think carefully about how its done, as the station building is so integral to the old railway line and the linear park: and if put on the open market and if it is sold to a private individual, the opportunity for providing a facility with real community benefit is likely to be lost.”

Chairman of Rayne Parish Council, Martyn Phillips, said: “I want to see something that would benefit Flitch Way in terms of income and the people using it. For the sake of our heritage I am keen for something positive to be done with Takeley station as well.”