Police were forced to go to court for a closure order on a controversial cannabis cafe they thought they had already shut down.
People plagued by disruption from the Hole in the Wall cafe in Freshbrook Road, Lancing, thought they had won their long running battle to get it closed last month.
But they were stunned when police chiefs sent them a letter saying an eviction notice served on those who run the cafe was flawed.
Chief Inspector James Asser, Sussex Police’s district commander for Adur, wrote: “Having been in discussion with those making this application it appears that, due to an administrative feature of this case, the eviction will be reversed.
“I understand how disappointed you will be but assure you that local officers will continue to patrol the area to prevent antisocial behaviour.”
But an interim closure order was served on the cafe on Sunday and a district judge issued a three-month closure order at Worthing Magistrates Court yesterday. Ch Insp Asser and Tim Loughton, the MP for Shoreham and East Worthing, told district judge Roger Ede about the “fear and intimidation” suffered by local residents from people going to and from the cafe.
One 76-year-old, who did not want to be named, said she had had a panic alarm fitted in her home after one man threatened to firebomb her property near the cannabis cafe.
Ch Insp Asser said: “The building is designed to frustrate the law with poles set in concrete and razor wire around it.
“It is the most fortified building in Britain and is designed to frustrate our execution of search warrants.”
He told the court that incinerators had been installed in the building and when police arrived there was a strong smell of cannabis as smoke came from the building.
Mr Loughton said the cannabis cafe was “by far” the biggest problem raised by residents in Lancing.
He told the court: “The local residents were not absolutely sure that the closure would be the end of it because there had been so many false dawns before, but the sense of relief was immense.
“The sense of desperation that this has turned out to be the latest false dawn will be catastrophic and frustrating.
“It really will be a body blow to the local community if the place is not kept shut permanently.”
District Judge Ede said he was satisfied that “on the balance of probabilities” the cafe was being used to supply cannabis.
He added: “If it was being used to provide cream teas you would not need all the fortification there.
“These are people who have set themselves against the law and have built themselves an intimidating fortress so they can carry on their unlawful activities.
“I consider that the activities there causes consistent and significant nuisance to local residents.”
Ch Insp Asser said: “This is a victory for local residents who have had to put up with fear and intimidation as well as the supply of a controlled drug on their doorsteps.
“The cafe will be closed now for three months while we consider further legal action to ensure they don’t go back again.
“There was a flaw in the submission by a private company in an eviction notice in relation to the premises. They will be re-applying for a new eviction notice.
“I don’t feel we have been made to look foolish. I have to work within the law.”
Rosemary Wilkinson, who lives in Freshbrook Road, said: “We thought the problem had been solved.
“Then we got a letter saying that the eviction had been overturned because of some clause in the eviction notice.
“We were very upset and thought that might allow it to re-open but thankfully, it hasn’t.
“It is brilliant news that they have got a three month closure order while they sort it all out.”
By Nigel Freedman
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