BENCHES have landed a struggling businessman with a £20,000 fine after falling foul of planning laws.
Landlord Ben Bartrip put £15,000 worth of seating for 150 people outside The Victualler Harbourside Bar & Restaurant in Royal Clarence Yard, Gosport.
When he applied for retrospective planning permission – needed as the building is Grade II listed — council planning chiefs refused.
Portsmouth Crown Court heard his firm failed to remove them after Gosport Borough Council issued the firm with an enforcement notice demanding they be taken away.
Shocked Bartrip, 42, was handed the fine and ordered to pay £2,180 prosecution costs after he admitted the company, 88 75 Ltd, of Weelil Lane, had breached the enforcement notice.
People living nearby had complained.
Prosecutor Poonam Patni said the company showed ‘substantial, deliberate and wilful non-compliance’ — this was denied by the firm.
Judge David Melville QC criticised Bartrip for not removing the seats until November after his magistrates’ court appearance.
He said ‘money must have been the reason’ the bar left the seating in place during the height of summer.
Accounts handed in at the sentencing hearing did not show what was earned during the summer, leaving the judge ‘wholly in the dark’.
Addressing the business owner, the judge said: ‘Now one could well imagine the commercial allurement to have to put tables and chairs outside to increase your turnover in a very attractive setting in the summer.’
Bartrip had not appealed the refusal of the planning permission for the benches until later. He could still win planning permission.
He received the enforcement notice in May.
‘You refused to comply with that, no doubt the commercial imperative was very strong,’ the judge said. He added: ‘It’s quite obvious from this story that you simply decided not to comply with the council’s instruction.
‘They served you with a notice and you didn’t comply with it, and money must have been the reason.’
Leanne Buckley-Thomson, for 88 75 Ltd, said the firm was £150,000 in debt and Bartrip made £17,000 a year.
She said: ‘Mr Bartrip was advised he should leave the tables and chairs there so (the planning inspector) could see them and take a view on the character and impact on the Grade II listed building. He has since removed the tables and chairs.’
Mark Hook, Gosport council leader, said: ‘The council refused planning permission for this large amount of outside seating, accommodating about 150 people, because of the noise and disturbance that would be suffered by nearby residents, and because it was out of keeping in this historic area.’
Bartrip, who employs 16 people, said: ‘It’s pretty shocking that the council has taken this action whilst there’s an ongoing appeal.
‘It’s probably going to put us out of business.’