Cafe Espresso Alwoodley: Confusion as Leeds Council orders owners to dismantle outdoor area 'customers really enjoy'
and live on Freeview channel 276
Cafe Espresso, Alwoodley, opened in September 2017 by Iranian couple Mohammad Nikoobazoorad and Mahan Afghan. The cafe – which Mahan fondly describes as her child – survived the pandemic, they say, thanks to its outdoor seating area.
The canopy was put in place in May 2021 to provide seating with good ventilation and had meant that customers could still visit the cafe in the lockdown. It continued to remain in use after the pandemic too, following a change in the customers’ preferences.
Mahan said: “Customers really enjoyed the outside area. We decided to put some heaters for winter and autumn. We don't have too many sunny days in UK, so in the summer as well, they really enjoyed to sit outside."
However, the council issued a letter in February 2022 stating that the couple needed to apply for planning permission to keep its outdoor seating. Their subsequent application was rejected. The couple then put forward an appeal and a petition with more than 400 signatures but the council’s order to remove the canopy has stayed in place.
A spokesperson for the council said: “A retrospective application regarding an outdoor canopy structure for a cafe seating area at this premises was rejected by the council in June, 2022. The council’s decision was then upheld by a planning inspector in April 2023 following an appeal by the applicant.”
The council said it was rejected for a number of reasons, including how the outdoor development is “incongruous” to the rest of its street in the leafy north Leeds suburb. The spokesperson said: “The council’s original refusal of the application was based on both the visual impact the structure has had on the local area and the increase in noise, traffic and demand for on street parking which has come as a result.”
Mahan, 39, disagrees with the claims. The cafe’s opening hours are Monday-Saturday, 9.30am-4pm. She said: “Definitely, there is a noise because people are sitting outside but it's just a local cafe, not a very messy or a very busy cafe.”
The couple hoped the extra seating the canopy provides would buffer some of the effects of the cost of living crisis, which has seen the business’ electricity bills double and cost of supplies increase exponentially.
She added: “We really tried hard, we are not English. We are from Iran. Working in a second language or with a second culture, how difficult would it be? We really tried really, really hard.”
"I don't have any complaint from the council,” said Mahan. “I'm sure they have some rules, which we have to respect. I'm ready to do anything the council say. I would just like to get some support from them as a small local business.”
The council spokesperson added: “The council encourages applicants to engage with us and will always endeavour to support and work with local businesses. However, any developments must be balanced with the impact they may have on local communities.”