A café owner who won a legal battle to keep a terrace has hit out at Redbridge Council for wasting time and money.

In November last year, Stavros Nicola was ordered to remove a wooden terrace outside the Bungalow café in Spratt Hall Road, Wanstead, as it breached planning regulations.

But the 43-year-old claimed that the structure, which seats up to 40 customers, had been in place for 25 years and was therefore too old to be the subject of enforcement action.

Mr Nicola was summoned to a public inquiry at Redbridge Town Hall on March 26, where after discussion between his barrister and representatives of the council, the enforcement notice was dropped.

He said: "I provided them with three witness statements, including one from the previous landlord and one from a builder who worked on the extension.

"I also gave them photos showing that the structure had not changed at all in the last four years, yet in the face of that overwhelming evidence Redbridge Council still tried to scare me into knocking it down."

"This fiasco has been a complete waste of time and money.

"I believe the evidence they were presented with before the inquiry proved my case was watertight, yet they went through with it to try and bully me into giving in.

"I have spent thousands on this and I dread to think how much taxpayers’ money they have wasted on pursuing the case against me.

"They should be helping local businesses not bullying them.

"I am going to try and recover some of my legal costs from them but I can never get the time back that they made me waste on this ridiculous process."

Tahir Ashraf, Mr Nicola's barrister, added: "This is a fantastic result for a genuine, local businessman.

"Mr Nicola is someone who works hard, pays his taxes employs people and contributes to the local economy.

"It has been a pleasure to represent him."

A spokeswoman for Redbridge Council said: "The Council has a duty to investigate planning breaches and to protect the borough from unlawful development.

"We investigated and served an enforcement notice at this site following a complaint from a member of the public.

"This notice was served because the Council did not believe there was sufficient evidence that the structure had been in place for four years based on the information we had at the time.

"Mr Nicola appealed this notice and the Planning inspectorate called an Inquiry into the matter.

"Mr Nicola provided further evidence at the Inquiry, which had not been presented to the Council previously.

"However, it was agreed at the Inquiry that Mr Nicola would only use the awnings covering the pergola during trading hours and that they would be stored at other times.

"Based on this additional evidence and satisfactory agreement, the Council withdrew the notice.

"Enforcement actions are taken on the best available evidence at the time breaches are detected."