Tuesday, 09 August 2022

Residents happy after restaurant loses fight over food store

Cafe le Raj

A RESTAURANT is facing calls to demolish its outdoor food store after it was refused planning permission for a second time.

Café Le Raj was criticised after installing the white uPVC-clad store at the back of its premises in Reading Road, Henley, before applying for consent.

Co-owner Badshafa Miah submitted a retrospective application but South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning committee refused to grant planning permission in December after neighbours objected, saying the store doors were continually left open, causing light and noise pollution.

Now the committee has turned down a second application to reduce the height of the building and clad it with black, stained timber and create a sloping felt roof. This was despite a recommendation to approve the plans.

Planning officer Marc Pullen said the redesign of the store would “vastly improve” the appearance of the site.

He added: “The building is reasonable in size so as to accommodate the desired use and officers are satisfied that efforts have been made to reduce its height as much as possible to ensure it retains its function. It is my view that the siting and design of the building would not be significantly harmful.”

But residents and town councillors again complained on the grounds of overdevelopment and light and noise pollution and for the scheme being unneighbourly.

The committee agreed, saying the design, scale and appearance of the store failed to preserve or enhance the character and appearance of the conservation area and it had an adverse impact on the setting of the adjoining listed buildings.

Joan Bland, a Henley district councillor, who spoke against the application, said the store should now be removed as soon as possible.

She said: “It’s totally unneighbourly on both residents and businesses. The biggest thing is the noise and light pollution, which is constant.” Cllr Bland said the outdoor area was now an “eyesore”, adding: “It was the most beautiful garden but it has been concreted over. Now it’s an absolute mess.”

Mayor Kellie Hinton said: “I did try to speak with the company in question but didn’t reach an agreement and sometimes you have to stand up for what’s right and it’s not often you get these little wins in town.

“By win I mean the district council has helped us protect the integrity of the town. We have to protect our town from overdevelopment. When we’re successful it really is wonderful and makes it worthwhile.

“I hope that Café Le Raj continues to do business and finds an alternative way of storing food which is more appropriate. We’re not against the restaurant or the people who run it.”

Mike Trethewey, who lives behind the premises in Queen Street and also spoke against the plans, said: “The building was erected without planning permission and was unsuitable because of its size and the materials used — white plastic. The retrospective application was slightly improved but still unsuitable.

“I would like to thank town councillors for their help in opposing this application.”

Sue Turner, who runs the Candela hypnotherapy clinic next door to the restaurant, said she was pleased by the committee’s decision.

“It has been very wearing,” she said. “Hopefully, it’s all over now and they have to abide by the rules.”

A district council spokesman said that its enforcement team would seek to negotiate a “timely removal” of the store and, if an agreement couldn’t be reached, the council would serve an enforcement notice on Café Le Raj to require its removal.

But he added that the restaurant owners had a right of appeal against the committee’s decision.

Cafe Le Raj co-owner Abdus Salam said he would remove the store, adding: “We always follow the rules.”

But he said this would impact on the business, adding: “I’m in a disastrous position — I’ve no storage where I can put my dry goods.”

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