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UK: Cannabis cafe' planning breach probe

The Argus, Worthing

Monday 22 Oct 2007

A controversial cannabis cafe could be in breach of planning regulations.

Council experts are investigating whether or not the owners of the cafe
in Freshbrook Road, Lancing, has flouted the rules after military-style
fortifications were put up around the building.

Police have carried out two raids on the cafe, once in July using a
battering ram and then again this month using a two tonne tractor to
smash a way in.

On each occasion officers found only a small amount of cannabis.

However as revealed earlier this week by The Argus, those behind the
cafe have since re-opened for business and have substantially
refortified the building with metal poles covered in concrete filled
tyres topped with barbed wire.

The tyres cover most of the outside of the building.

Adur District Council said it is currently looking into whether a breach
of the planning laws has taken place.

It has sent officers to inspect the building in the past and is likely
to carry out further investigations now the new fortifications have
taken place.

A spokeswoman for the council said: "It is fair to say we are currently
looking into it."

Along with the fortifications, the building also has a substantial
number of CCTV cameras covering the premises.

Owners told The Argus they also plan to put up steel girder
height-restriction barriers on the slip road leading to the building,
preventing large vehicles such as police vans from visiting.

A spokesman from the cafe said the council's investigations would not
deter them.

They said: "We need the fortifications to protect us. The police tore
the wall down the last time they raided us."

Those in the cafe told The Argus they feared for their lives when the
tractor with a chain attached ripped a window from its frame.

The action bought around three quarters of the building's wall down with it.

However Chief Inspector Lawrence Hobbs, Adur district police commander,
has reiterated his desire to shut the business down, despite the

He believes officers have a "clear mandate" from local residents who he
claims also want the premises shut down.

Ch Insp Hobbs said: "We have held meetings with the local residents and
they clearly want us to close this place down.

"With the fortifications that have been made, at great expense, our
options were diminishing.

"That meant we had to take the relatively drastic action of employing a
tractor during the last raid."

He added that officers would continue to execute warrants on the building.

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