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Death knell for al fresco cafe culture

PUBLISHED: 12:05 30 January 2009 | UPDATED: 15:53 07 September 2010

Spiazzo in Crouch End

Spiazzo in Crouch End

Charlotte Newton SUMMER is officially over for a popular café in the heart of Crouch End which has been ordered to re-move a £7,000 outdoor decking area. The Italian Food Hall delicatessen and restaurant is a landmark in Crouch End, frequented by the grea

Charlotte Newton

SUMMER is officially over for a popular café in the heart of Crouch End which has been ordered to re-move a £7,000 outdoor decking area.

The Italian Food Hall delicatessen and restaurant is a landmark in Crouch End, frequented by the great and the good of north London. The spacious outdoor eating area is a popular attraction in summer, bringing shoppers - who enjoy basking in the sunshine over a coffee or light lunch - into the area.

But in May, the owner Jean-Pierre Irtelli was ordered to remove the decking, tables, seating and awning because Haringey Council claimed they had been erected without planning permission.

A host of actors and writers, including Eastenders' Cliff "Minty" Parisi, Les Dennis, leading Times columnist Caitlin Moran and Life on Mars star John Simm, were among 2,700 protesters to sign a petition in favour of Spiazzo.

The nine-month planning dispute ended this week when the planning inspectorate ruled in favour of the council and ordered Mr Irtelli to take down the decking and awning.

Devastated, he said: "I spent £7,000 of my own money on this decking area - to enhance it and make it more pleasant for residents.

"Before I put the decking up, water seeped into my shop when it rained and puddles formed on the uneven pavements. Now my customers will have to sit on the ground - and if it rains, get their feet wet.

"It's all very unfair and the council is being extremely ignorant. I pay £8,000 a year in license fees to the town hall for the outdoor seating area. But if ever I ring the council to unblock the drains or clean up rubbish, nobody comes.

Mr Irtelli was relieved, however, that the council accepted his planning application for the chairs, tables and canopy - which provides customers with shelter from the elements.

"I probably would have had to close my business if they had ordered me to remove the canopy," he said.

But customers have expressed outrage at the inspectorate's decision.

A spokesman for the council said: "The council initially took action in accordance with planning law after complaints were received that the outdoor area went beyond the consent that had been given for outdoor tables and chairs.

"The building is listed, and the council has a duty to apply the law equally. The independent inspector allowed the retention of the canopy outside the premises, but confirmed that the decking and awning should be removed.

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