A CUERDLEY café owner says he spent thousands of pounds on his site before being forced to move by Warrington Borough Council.

Steven Murphy owns the Pit Stop café, opposite the decommissioned Fiddler's Ferry power station.

Steven, 51, used to work on a construction site in Manchester, before he was made redundant - he used his redundancy pay to set up the kerbside café.

When setting up the café, Steven and his family were in contact with the landowner, a local farmer, who then drafted an agreement that allowed Steven to use the land.

During the process, Steven's family were in contact with Warrington Borough Council's environmental health department, and the department informed them that they needed to contact the planning department - which then referred them back to environmental health.

At this point, which was before the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the café was installed on the land - the café began as a mobile caravan unit, but has now been expanded with an accessible decking area.

Throughout the various stages, Steven says the café was visited by representatives of the environmental health department who told him that he needed to connect the unit to water mains.

This - combined with hooking the unit up to the electricity mains - required the nearby road to be closed a number of times, at a charge to Steven.

A portion of the fee charged to Steven was sent to the street planning department at Warrington Borough Council, he claims.

Warrington Guardian: The business has been ordered off the land, despite having permission from the landownerThe business has been ordered off the land, despite having permission from the landowner (Image: Pit Stop)

Installing the relevant equipment for the running water, double sink, hot water, and mains hookup - as well as installing various other features at the request of council representatives - cost Steven approximately £9,000 in additional expenses.

After following each directive given to him by the council in order to make the café compliant with regulations, Steven says he was devastated to learn that the council would be attempting to evict him from the premises.

At the beginning of November, Steven was served with an enforcement order from the council that says he needed to remove his café from the premises by mid-January - or the beginning of February, subject to an appeal.

In order to appeal the council's decision, Steven would need to engage solicitors, as well as submit further planning applications - both of which would cost more than Steven can afford.

A letter from Warrington Borough Council has been seen by the Warrington Guardian that states Steven may apply for planning permission, but it would be 'unlikely that planning permission could be granted.'

Because of these circumstances, Steven now faces his investment of around £25,000 in the premises being in vain.

Warrington Guardian: Steven had been compliant with all guidance given by various departments at Warrington Borough Council, and is confused why the enforcement order has been servedSteven had been compliant with all guidance given by various departments at Warrington Borough Council, and is confused why the enforcement order has been served (Image: Pit Stop)

Steven said: "Because of my agreement with the landowner, my overheads are low, which means I don't charge greedy prices.

"During the pandemic, we were serving the essential services, including fire and police."

Steven's brother-in-law helped to build the café, he added: "This café is hardly gonna make Steven rich - but it provides employment for four people, and keeps all of them off the dole.

"He isn't harming anybody."

A spokesperson from Warrington Borough Council replied to the complaint.

The council's statement says: "The café is located in a sensitive location within the green belt. It is the responsibility of the developer to ensure that all appropriate consents are in place, including planning permission.

“We will always endeavour to support new businesses.

"People can seek advice either directly with our business compliance team on publicprotection@warrington.gov.uk, or via the Warrington and Co service: inwardinvestment@warringtonandco.com.

“We have also taken steps to co-locate a wide range of regulatory services to ensure, as far as reasonably possible that intelligence is shared and that joint interventions take place.

"Each legislative requirement must however be considered on its own merits.

“Our initial priority will always be to protect the public. We became aware of this business and it was necessary on this occasion to serve a food hygiene notice, requiring works to take place."

Pit Stop has until February to appeal or comply with the enforcement order.