Thousands back restaurateur in planning battle

Owner Jamal Ahmed outside the Pomegranate restaurant. Picture: Toby Wiliams
Owner Jamal Ahmed outside the Pomegranate restaurant. Picture: Toby Wiliams
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ALMOST 3000 people have lent their support to an Edinburgh restaurateur who has been ordered to remove “illegal” lighting and signs by city planners.

Jamal Ahmed, who runs the Pomegranate restaurant, claims he may be forced out of business after being served with an enforcement notice and £2500 bill in relation to strip lighting, decking and menu boards at his B-listed restaurant off Leith Walk.

The 34-year-old believes he is being “unfairly treated” as the planning breaches were committed several years ago when the business traded as an Italian restaurant named Ferri’s.

He bought the lease on the Antigua Street premises 18 months ago, changing it into a Middle Eastern restaurant, and claims that his problems arose after he put up a new sign and changed some of the paintwork from red to white.

An online petition entitled “Save Pomegranate Restaurant” has now attracted thousands of signatures and plans are even afoot to stage a protest march to City Chambers.

Mr Ahmed, who runs the business with his wife, Lisa, said: “The menu boards have been in place for more than 20 years, the strip lighting for 
four years, and the decking for six.

“I bought the lease in good faith believing that all of this had been cleared with planners, I’ve since found it wasn’t.

“Soon after moving in we had a falling out with a local person and all of our problems began from there. I can’t afford to pay a £2500 bill and what kind of restaurant will I have left without any lighting, signage or menu boards?”

In total the city council has identified seven planning breaches at the address.

Scottish Government reporter Richard Dent backed its stance and refused an appeal.

In his ruling, Mr Dent said: “There is no time limit for serving a listed building enforcement notice and I do not consider that either the length of time the strip lights have been in place or the lack of complaints justify the granting of listed building consent.”

He said the lights detracted “from the simplicity of the architecture”.

“This has an adverse impact on the character of the listed building.”

Mr Ahmed said he was undeterred and still hopeful of changing the minds of ­planners.

He added: “All I’m looking for is to be treated fairly.

“I didn’t commit these planning breaches. All we did was erect a new sign and give the place a lick of paint.

“The council have never come to me with a solution.

“I am willing to make the sign smaller or change the lighting but to just be told to rip it out and pay £2500 is too much.”

Local resident and Pomegranate regular Robert Wright, from nearby Barony Street, said: “The lighting and signage is hardly offensive, especially when you consider how some other local businesses look or when you compare it with the tat you see up on the High Street.

“All that has changed since it was the Italian restaurant is the colour and sign.”

The city council insists that the action is necessary to correct “inappropriate ­alterations”.

A council spokeswoman said: “Alterations to the building were made which required listed building and planning consent.

“We have therefore issued an enforcement notice to ensure work is carried out to reinstate the building as it was.”

david.oleary@edinburghnews.com