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Council threaten to take Planning Inspectorate to High Court
A long-running legal battle between Redbridge Council and an independent cafe owner may be decided in the High Court.
The authority is threatening to sue the Planning Inspectorate after it awarded Stavros Nicola, owner of the Bungalow Cafe in Spratt Hall Road, Wanstead, over £10,000 in legal costs.
Last year the council issued an enforcement notice to Mr Nicola instructing him to remove a terrace at his cafe, claiming it was in breach of planning regulations.
Mr Nicola appealed and the council withdrew the enforcement notice just as a public inquiry was due to start in March, on the understanding that it was only used in certain circumstances.
But because the council had withdrawn the notice, the Planning Inspectorate then ruled in August that the council had acted "unreasonably and without cause" and ordered it to pay Mr Nicola his legal costs.
The disgruntled council is now threatening to seek a judicial review of the decision, Mr Nicola claims.
He said: “The council is acting very unreasonably and making things harder than they should be.
“I pay my taxes, I pay my staff’s wages, some of whom I have had to let go under the financial pressure this has put me under.
“I have paid for these legal costs out of my own pocket. If the council goes ahead with this who knows how much I am going to have to pay out in costs and how long this will go on.
“The council is causing havoc for a small, local business. It will cost them a huge amount to take this to the High Court, but that will come out of taxpayer’s money.
“They have already crushed my business by restricting the parking, and after a one year battle and thousands of applicants opposing the parking they have now reversed it.
“The further they take this, the more they are digging themselves a hole simply because they refuse to back down.”
Tahir Ashraf, Mr Nicola's Barrister, said: “It is within the Planning Inspectorate's remit to make whatever decision they choose to as to an award of costs and in this case, they made the right decision.
“Only 40 per cent of applications for an award of costs made to the Planning Inspectorate are ever successful, with full awards rarely ever given out.
"When the council threatened to take the case to the High Court, the Planning Inspectorate has rejected the Council’s threat as being not arguable."
The Guardian is awaiting comment from Redbridge Council.
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