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Judgment reserved in test case legal battle over restaurant's pavement seating

19 March 2012
Judgment reserved in test case legal battle over restaurant's pavement seating

Westminster restaurateur Julian Cordani must wait to hear the outcome of a test case legal battle he has waged at London's High Court over the right to have outdoor pavement seating at his Demartino Italian restaurant.

Judgment in the complex case, which could have significance for other restaurateurs who have pavement seating at their premises, has been reserved to be given in writing.

Westminster City Council has refused to grant Cordani a Certificate of Lawful Existing Use or Development to establish once and for all his right to put seats for his customers on the pavement.

Cordani said that he had had seats and tables on the pavement outside the Great Portland Street premises for more than 20 years and that as a result has acquired the legal right for them to carry on being put there.

However, the council argued that because the tables and chairs were taken inside when the restaurant was closed, he has not established the continuous use or the necessary 10 years to make him immune from planning control.

When Cordani appealed against the stance taken by the council a Government planning inspector sided with him, finding that the fact the tables and chairs were taken in each night did not constitute a "significant interruption" of the continuing unauthorised use of the 1.5m by 3.25m area of land outside the restaurant.

The inspector described them as "short periods of inactivity in a continuing use".

Now, though, Westminster City Council has taken the matter to the High Court, and asked Judge Thornton QC to quash the inspector's decision and order a rethink.

If ultimately successful in having the inspector's decision quashed, the council would potentially be able to take enforcement action preventing the use of tables and chairs outside Demartino.

The judge has reserved his decision in order to give it in writing at a later date.

By our Court Reporter

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