A JAPANESE restaurant on the edge of London's famous Chinatown has been ordered to pull down its traditional Japanese frontage and replace it with a fake Georgian faáade.
The Tokyo Diner is planning to appeal against an enforcement notice received from Westminster City Council. Richard Hills, the diner's owner, has hired surveyors Grimley JR Eve to prepare his appeal.
The Tokyo Diner opened 18 months ago on the site ofan old launderette in a turnof the century building. Mr Hills imported Japanese ceramic tiles for the awning and had special oak screens built for the faáade, which is based on traditional Tokyo restaurants.
According to Mr Hills, the building is not listed but he has a duty to conserve or enhance it. The building next door is Georgian and the whole site is within a conservation area.
Mr Hills pointed out that the diner enhances the street and a fake Georgian exterior next door to an original Georgian building would be like putting an antique next to a reproduction.
Westminster wants him to replace the Japanese screens with a reproduction Georgian frontage which would make the restaurant look like a shop.
Westminster's divisional group manager in the planning department told Caterer the Tokyo Diner frontage was installed without planning permission and had an adverse affect on listed buildings within the Soho conservation area.
Asked why the council would want to remove a Japanese frontage while ignoring all the Chinese restaurants in the area, Mr Carpenter said the council was not taking a blanket approach but was concerned with a specific building.
"It's not that we don't like Japanese designs. It's this building and its relationship with listed buildings in the immediate area," he said.
However, as the picture shows, the council is keen to promote the Chinatown image and has created special street signs bearing Cantonese writing, two or which are mounted above the Tokyo diner.
Mr Hills said the sign above his diner "makes a mockery" of the enforcement notice.
He said the appeal would take a long time to proceed as an inspector had yet to be appointed. "I'm quite happy that it takes a long time. The longer it takes the more people will see the restaurant. I have yet to receive a complaint about its design," he said.