A COVENTRY councillor and businessman owns eateries in the city operating without planning permission, we can exclusively reveal.
At least one resident has raised concerns the council is giving ‘special treatment’ to Rois Ali – a high-ranking councillor as deputy cabinet member for public health and sport.
The Coventry Observer has learned councillors on its planning committee privately last week finally decided to take enforcement action against businesses at two of his premises – the Ginger Orange Indian restaurant, Kenpas Highway, Styvechale, and The Village Cafe, Station Avenue, Tile Hill.
The Village Cafe has been open more than a year despite being refused planning permission twice by councillors on planning committee – in 2013 and last year – and losing two appeals to independent inspectors, the latest being in March.
Council planning officers had recommended councillors last week finally granted planning permission, with conditions restricting it to day-time use (7.30am to 6pm) and the entrance being relocated to minimise disturbance to neighbours – but the cafe withdrew its application at the last minute.
Public objections included one complaint that there was a “risk that this application will raise aspersions of special treatment or influence as the owner is a Coventry Councillor.”
The council’s Register of Members’ Interests for Coun Ali includes the Ginger Orange and Village Cafe premises among 18 sites for which he declared a ‘beneficial interest’. They include others restaurant and takeaway premises around the city.
Councillors privately decided last Thursday (August 4) to serve an enforcement notice on Village Cafe to stop trading within two months, and remove all goods and equipment, due to the planning breaches.
Ginger Orange has been given one month to stop hot food takeaways and deliveries for planning breaches on highway safety grounds and disturbance to residents.
Failure to comply with an enforcement notice is illegal. Further applications and appeals could follow.
Coun Ali, an award-winning restaurateur, was elected as Labour councillor for Cheylesmore in May and has long been involved with Coventry Labour Party.
He owned the Rupali Indian restaurant in Tile Hill in the 1990s before opening the MYO restaurant upstairs at the high-profile grade 11-listed old fire station building in Millennium Place, city centre, before its closure in 2010.
The Village Cafe’s previous planning applications were refused because of council planners’ concerns about changing the use of the former butcher’s shop to ‘mixed use’ (cafe and hot food takeaway)’.
Council planners had refused on road safety concerns over the nearby Tanners Lane/Banners Lane/Tile Hill Lane junction not later shared by appeal inspectors; and concerns about disturbance to residents from early morning use and night-time takeaway use later upheld by the inspectors.
The latest application for which council planning officers were recommending approval last week sought permission for takeaway use, and a cafe between 7.30am and 6pm, with shorter weekend opening.
Yet the cafe’s Facebook site this week advertised opening hours from 6am for ‘full English breakfast served all day seven days a week’.
The application was withdrawn after officers sought more conditions and advised councillors the cafe had said it would only move the entrance if it got late night opening – despite appeal inspectors’ ruling.
Another party was refused planning permission for an Italian restaurant at 50 Kenpas Highway in 2009 before Ginger Orange opened about a year ago. Land Registry documents show Coun Ali has owned the site since 2007.
Coun Ali said that, as ‘landlord’, he was “working with the tenants and council officers to try and resolve the issues.”