Restaurateur wins legal battle over outside seating area
16:02 17 January 2013
A Westminster restaurant owner has won a court battle with the council over the right to place tables and chairs on the pavement outside his premises.
In a test case that could affect other restaurants and cafes, a High Court judge today ruled it was lawful to have seating outside the Demartino Italian restaurant in the West End.
Judge Thornton QC rejected claims by Westminster City Council that restaurateur Julian Cordani was not entitled to a Certificate of Lawful Existing Use or Development.
Mr Cordani said that he had had seats and tables on the pavement outside the Great Portland Street premises for more than 20 years and thus acquired the legal right to go on doing so.
Westminster’s lawyers argued that the nightly and seasonal removal of the chairs and tables meant there was a failure to establish “continuous” use for the minimum 10 years necessary to gain immunity from planning control.
A Government planning inspector rejected all Westminster’s arguments as “not well founded” and ruled continuous use of the 1.5m by 3.25m area of land outside the restaurant had been established.
Westminster asked London’s High Court to quash the inspector’s decision, but Judge Thornton ruled the inspector had made no errors of law and the use of the tables and chairs was properly certified as lawful.
Today’s ruling prevents the council taking enforcement action.
Westminster’s deputy leader, Cllr Robert Davis said: “We have no issue with people dining on tables and chairs outside and this case was never about that.
“We are just trying to ensure that the council can carry out its core duties such as street cleaning, gritting and carrying out road maintenance.
“We are disappointed with the decision and are currently reviewing our options.”