Council defiance over dispute costs 'causing hardship' (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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Redbridge Council defiance over dispute costs 'causing hardship'
Redbridge Council is continuing to defy an order to pay thousands of pounds in legal costs to a cafe owner after it acted "unreasonably and without cause" in a long-running planning dispute, it is claimed.
The authority withdrew an enforcement notice ordering Stavros Nicola of the Bungalow Cafe in Spratt Hall Road, Wanstead, to remove a terrace on the eve of a public inquiry.
Mr Nicola successfully argued that the terrace and awning had been in place for 25 years so could therefore not be subject to enforcement action.
After criticising the council, the Planning Inspectorate ordered the authority to pay Mr Nicola's legal costs of £10,000 in April.
An initial threat by the authority to sue the Planning Inspectorate for acting "irrationally" was dropped, but it is still says it is only willing to pay half the costs and is threatening Mr Nicola with legal action if he does not settle.
Mr Nicola said the issue is causing him severe financial hardship.
He said: "If I object to this they are threatening to take me to court and these costs I will not be able to claim back, so it is a lose-lose situation for me.
"The council wasted tax-payers’ money in this whole situation. They have semi-crippled a small business by doing what they did.
"They have put me in a position where I have to leave my obligations behind and in financial hardship.
"It has been a very stressful period for me, my friends and family, and I call on the council to pay me what I am owed."
A spokeswoman for Redbridge Council said: "We can confirm that our usual procedure when costs awards are received has been followed.
"The Council has not been ordered to pay a specific amount by the Planning Inspectorate as it is up to both parties to come to an individual agreement on the amount for these costs."