Nov 1 2012 by Ian Proctor, Harrow Observer
CUSTOMERS will finally be able to legally sit outside a popular independent town centre cafe after a three-year fight by the owner.
Umar Farooq, owner of Ancona Italian Coffee House in St Ann’s Road, Harrow, won retrospective permission from Harrow Council at the fourth attempt to provide tables and chairs for his clientele on the adjacent pavement.
He was frustrated because branches of chains Costa Coffee and Caffe Nero either side of his cafe had been able to provide al fresco seating since December 2005 and June 2006 respectively, yet he was refused permission twice and lost an appeal.
Customer Robert Sale had told the authority: “It is refreshing to see an independent enterprise thriving where increasingly the mega brand names in shopping areas push out the small people and the experience becomes identically monotonous in most town and city centres.
“Being able to sit outside and have a coffee when the weather permits is an additional pleasure and an accepted positive aspect of town and city life in many parts of the world.
“It would be particularly unfair if Ancona were not permitted to have their tables and chairs since both Costa and Nero have outside seating areas.”
Harrow Council’s planning committee approved the application on Thursday last week.
The U-turn follows the council’s announcement in August of its plans to create an area for ‘cafe culture’ in the town centre as part of a £1million revamp of St Ann’s Road.
Mr Farooq was refused planning permission in 2009 and again in 2010 when he also lost the subsequent appeal to the Planning Inspectorate and he withdrew his third application last year when planning officers recommended refusal, even though 130 customers had signed a petition in support of the proposal.
The reason given was it would result in a loss of retail frontage and create a harmful concentration of non-retail use within the Harrow Metropolitan Centre, leading to a loss of vitality.
However, a report ahead of last week’s meeting said: “The proposal provides popular refreshment facilities and its continued operation would assist in maintenance of the vitality of the Harrow Metropolitan Centre.
“The property has proved a highly successful, popular and thriving business in this location... the use has effectively been operating for some time without complaint.”