THE owner of a takeaway restaurant in Benfleet must pay just over £3,300 in fines and legal fees after being found guilty of trading outside of approved opening hours.

Mehmet Pektas, who owns the Hot Hut fast food outlet in High Road, Benfleet, admitted trading illegally outside his opening hours at Southend Magistrates Court last week.

The restaurant had been trading into the early hours causing misery for residents who claim it lead to increased anti-social behaviour, littering and disturbances in the shopping street.

Mr Pektas was fined £650 with a victim surcharge of £15 after admitting to the offence under the Town and Country Planning Act.

He was also ordered to pay £2,666 in legal and investigatory fees to the council.

Pam Challis, leader of the council, said: “We will not take the soft option with people who flout the law in our borough and will take legal action where necessary.

“Offenders need to understand they risk not only a criminal record but a hefty fine as well.”

Planning permission for the restaurant was granted in 1994, subject to a condition it would only operate from 10am to 11.30pm, from Monday to Saturday, and 10am to 4pm on Sunday.

Applications to extend the opening hours have been rejected on seven occasions since then.

A beach of condition notice was issued to Mr Pektas on August 20 last year for operating outside of his hours.

Despite assuring the council he would comply with the notice, the authority received further allegations he was breaching his opening hours and took him to court.