Pepe’s Piri Piri Reading blasted as a ‘rogue operation’

Pepe’s Piri Piri has occupied 109b Oxford Road near the town centre since opening in October 2019.

It was allowed to occupy the building, which used to be a Ladbrokes betting shop, after the council approved a conversion plan for the building in May 2018.

However, the chicken shop has gotten in trouble with the council over not following the rules of the approved plans.

Neighbours have complained about problems with the extraction fan, which has led to smoke and cooking odour coming into their homes and down Zinzan Street.

A plan submitted in an effort to alleviate the issues was submitted and meant to be decided on in March last year.

However, a decision was deferred for more information, with Pepe’s Piri Piri closing temporarily in April last year.

At the time, a representative for the chain said the closure was in place to fix the issues the council had raised.

READ MORE: Issues rumble on between Pepe’s Piri Piri and council 

The chicken shop was seen reopened later that Spring.

Now, Pepe’s could be forced to return the building to its original condition.

That’s after a plan to retrospectively approve changes to the building were unanimously refused by Reading Borough Council’s planning committee on Wednesday, March 29.

Councillor Tony Page (Labour, Abbey) blasted the company in charge of the Pepe’s in Reading for failing to meet their obligations.

He said: “We had a meeting before [they] opened, they sent representatives boasting about all the experience they had about running these places, how it would be a high standard, they would comply with the littering, extraction requirements and everything would be nirvana in the locality.

“They gave us a lot of bogus promises that have not been delivered.

“I’m grateful to planning and environmental health officers that have had to spend far too much of their valuable time on dealing with this rogue operation.”

READ MORE: Reading burger joint wins bid for new takeaway despite odour and rubbish concerns

The issue is complicated by the status of Pepe’s as a franchise.

The refused plan for the building was submitted by ‘Express Team Ltd’, which is who cllr Page was directing his comments to.

However, according to Companies House, Express Team was dissolved on July 15, 2020.

Express Team was in trouble with the council for not submitting plans prior to opening for a kitchen extraction system or the shopfront, leading the company to be served with a planning enforcement notice in January 2020.

If the notice is enacted, the occupants could be forced to return the building to its original condition.

For its part, a spokesperson of Pepe’s confirmed that the franchise is currently held by Mehar Group Ltd, and said they will make a formal complaint to the council for alleged ‘harassment and bullying’.

Pepe’s spokesperson said: “We are committed to continuing to serve our customers and support our community just like we did throughout the pandemic.

“We will be speaking to our specialist advisers as well as having further discussions with the Council.

“Great efforts and expense have been made in good faith to meet the technical requirements.

“Getting the balance right between noise, extraction and conservation makes this a unique challenge but we are determined to find a solution.

“We have a number of outlets across the country but have never experienced such difficulty.

“There have been issues around late responses from council officers and have experienced harassment and bullying against some of our staff by council representatives which is beyond normal process [which] will be the subject of a formal complaint.

“We employ 15 people and their livelihoods in these difficult times are important to us and we will do our best to ensure that they are not impacted by further delays.

“We will not be making anymore press statements as we want to focus our efforts on a solution and building a good and sustainable relationship with the Council for the benefit of Reading and its economic growth and development.”

You can view applications for the original conversion and the refused retrospective application by typing reference numbers into the council’s planning portal:

  • Approved conversion of betting shop into takeaway – 180273/FUL
  • Refused retrospective application for changes – 220567

Reading Chronicle | Town Centre