A bitter battle between a controversial Marbella restaurant backed by Premiership footballers and a residents group bankrolled by a Russian millionaire came to Woodford Bridge last night.
La Sala, which lists England stars Raheem Sterling and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain as investors, is hoping to open a restaurant in Chigwell Road.
But Villa Marina Action Group (VMAG), which is calling for La Sala’s activities to be limited in Spain due to claims of excessive noise and anti-social behaviour, last night warned a public meeting the problems would be repeated if the new restaurant opened at the site recently occupied by Deuce’s.
VMAG is financed by an unnamed Russian, who owns 15 of the 20 villas which neighbour the Marbella restaurant.
As well as claims of noise and disruption, it is understood he is also in dispute with La Sala over building plans.
David Lott of VMAG travelled to London to chair the meeting at Menzies Prince Regent Hotel in Manor Road to offer to represent residents opposed to the La Sala’s 2am licence application for free.
The meeting, attended by about 60 people, including a lawyer for La Sala, was filmed by VMAG.
Residents’ views on the late license were mixed, with some questioning VMAG’s involvement in the Chigwell Road proposal.
Kelly Piegle, 56, of Owen Gardens, said: “We are being railroaded into one way of thinking.
“I have been to Marbella branch of La Sala and I enjoyed the Michael Buble tributes but I probably wouldn’t stay till 2 am.”
Richard Lorraine, 47, Rose Tree Mews, said he feared existing problems in the area would be worsened
He added: “On our mews we have had drug dealing, sex and people urinating on my car.”
“That was when Deuce’s was running it, which was never at full capacity.
“You have to multiply that by however many people will show up at La Sala.”
Councillor Paul Canal has accused the VMAG of manipulating residents.
He said: “I understand last night’s meeting was arranged by a resident of Marbella acting for a UK property magnate who is himself acting for a Russian consortium who are trying to buy land in Marbella, owned by la Sala in Spain.
"I believe they have been rebuffed and this UK campaign is designed to apply pressure.
“They have no genuine interest in Woodford Bridge and are using us as a proxy for their property battle in Spain.
“They would happily let the derelict White Hart rot.
“Our approach is in the best interests of residents in Woodford Bridge, and puts their interests before those of millionaire investors in Marbella.”
David Dadds counsel for La Sala said: “In my experience, I have never seen anyone from outside of the UK organise a meeting like this for their own agenda.”
Redbridge Council is due to decide on the application on August 18.
La Salsa chairman James Horler insisted the company brand in Spain has no bearing on his business in the UK.
He said: “We will be a 70 per cent food led restaurant and have put in £1.5 million into the building.”
“The complaints made by VMAG are at a premises which has an average age of 23, where we are aiming for a clientele with an average age of 47.”
“It will not be a nightclub.”