Redbridge Council to consider dropping prosecution of Wanstead café owner

Redbridge Council may decide to back down from prosecuting a Wanstead café owner over allegations of illegal alterations to his terrace.

Bungalow Café owner Stavros Nicola, 53, is accused of illegally replacing awnings around his outdoor seating area with glass doors and windows in December 2020.

Mr Nicola, who denies any breaches of building regulations, appeared at Barkingside Magistrates’ Court today expecting a trial but heard the council is now considering a “review” of his prosecution.

Claire Howell, representing Redbridge Council, said the prosecution may be withdrawn if the 53-year-old follows its instructions to make his terrace area “safe for use”.

She said: “The parties have had discussions, this case concerns building regulation and the council’s objective is to make sure the building is safe for use.

“Our application today would have been for an adjournment in any event, the council is going to set out clearly what Mr Nicholas needs to do and, if he does it, then this case will be withdrawn

“It will be set out in writing clearly… what he needs to do and that will happen after this hearing.”

Ms Howell did not explain why the council may now be softening its stance after pursuing a prosecution that could result in fines of thousands of pounds following a conviction.

Judge Paul Donegan agreed to adjourn the case but warned the father-of-two he would still face a trial if he does not comply with the council’s instructions.

The court also heard that Nicola’s trial would likely have been cancelled today because the judge had more than twenty other cases to deal with.

Furthermore, no witnesses from Redbridge Council had arrived at court when the trial was due to begin.

Delays to Mr Nicola’s trial also occurred in May when Barkingside Magistrates’ Court was closed on the day without a public explanation.

Mr Nicola has a long-running history of clashing with the council over planning issues related to his café’s terrace area.

In 2013, he won a costly planning battle with Redbridge Council after it ordered him to remove the wooden roof structure because it breached regulations.

At a public planning enquiry, he argued the terrace had been there for 25 years and a planning inspector ordered the council to pay thousands in legal costs.

Nicola, of Spratt Hall Road, Wanstead, denies two breaches of building regulations for failing to give notice of commencement of work and failing to give building notice or deposit full plans.

If an agreement has not been reached with the Redbridge Council by December 6, a new trial date will be scheduled for 2023.

Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter