THE owners of one of East Lancashire’s most long-established Chinese restaurants have told of their sadness at their decision to retire.

Mei and John Tang, who run Sun Dragon Restaurant and Takeaway, in Rising Bridge, want to demolish the building and replace it with three houses and a bungalow.

They are staying open for the foreseeable future though until they get the necessary planning permission.

The decision to retire has come as the business has fallen into steady decline in recent years, which they say is down to increased competition and rising annual business rates.

It has been described as a ‘difficult and upsetting’ choice by Mrs Tang who set up the restaurant with her husband in 2001.

The mum-of-three said: “It has been a difficult decision.

“We have been here since 2001 and seen a lot of people walk through these doors.

“The customers are part of the family and we have been in the community so long that we feel like a part of it.

“The hardest part will be to say goodbye. This is our baby and we nurtured it.”

She said an influx of more food businesses, such as the McDonald’s on Blackburn Road, Rising Bridge, and supermarkets offering versions of takeaway meals were the main reasons for the closure.

Paying business rates has also been a struggle for the couple in the last 12 months as the costs have increased to £10,000 a year, not including other bills such as heating, lighting and gas.

Ward councillor Ann Kenyon, who is also the mayor of Rossendale, said: “It’s sad. They are nice people and their business will be missed.”

The couple, who submitted the proposal to the borough council in November last year, have recently appealed Rossendale Council’s decision to refuse their plans.

The planning department has not granted permission for the proposal because of the bungalow aspect of the plan.

Following the appeal Mr and Mrs Tang said they are not sure what they will do with the houses if the proposal is accepted.

She said: “We are unsure if we want to sell the site or keep it and find a developer who wants to build.”