A popular laundrette in Ealing is facing closure after the council approved an application to transform the premises into residential use - without putting it through the planning committee.
Haven Green Laundrette purchased the lease for 25 Haven Lane for £15,000 in 2005, which expired earlier this year, with owners hoping to negotiate a renewal.
But it will now shut after Ealing Council approved the premise owner's application to transform the ground floor into residential use.
The application, which was made in February this year, drew 37 objections and 224 signatures on a petition to keep it open for business.
But before it was put before the planning committee, a report written by Ellen Cox saw the application approved because it is not a "community facility."
Haven Green Laundrette spokesman Amir Sadjady acknowledged the owner had freedom to determine its use, but was disappointed the council did not put it in front of the planning committee.
'It required a human element'
His dad and owner, Hossein Sajjadi, will be forced to shut and cannot afford the "lengthly process" of applying for a new premise and moving elsewhere.
He said: "(They) have a right to do what they did.
"I'm disappointed because it required a human element, they (the council) just read policies and saw if it applied.
"It does not consider if there is an 80-year-old lady who had been using it for 30 years."
During consultation, a number of people wrote to highlight its importance to the area and the void that would be left.
Dr Paula Firstbrook wrote: "The loss of the launderette would be a shame.
"This facility is very much an important part of the local community. It is heavily used by those unable to have their own laundry facilities."
'Not considered to be a community facility'
Before Mr Sadjadi took over in 2005, the building had been used as a laundrette under different ownership since 1985, he said.
But in her report, Ellen Cox said: "It is acknowledged that the existing facility provides an important service for the community and is much valued by its clientele, as illustrated by the depth and volume of objections against the application.
"However, the launderette is not considered to be a community facility or social infrastructure.
"By contrast, it is a commercial business and its operation and viability is not a material consideration in assessment of this application."
'Simply an outrage'
Conservative Councillor Joy Morrissey, who represents the Hanger Hill ward, said: "It is difficult to put into words my utter frustration with Ealing Council over their undemocratic planning department.
"A long-established family-run business in Ealing is going to close because of the reckless decision of one planning officer.
"Haven Lane launderette is a family run laundrette that has been in Ealing for 35 years. Ealing Council refused even to let the decision go to planning committee.
"The council purports to support local business but then does something like this. It is simply an outrage. I believe in supporting local businesses not destroying them."
A spokesperson for Ealing Council said: "The council would emphasise that it is the owner’s desire to close the launderette and that the council has no powers to force the owner to keep it open.
"In planning procedure a case officer would be assigned to handle a planning application.
"They would assess the application against planning legislation, which includes national and local planning policies, and take advice from senior planning officers and colleagues in other appropriate departments. So no planning decision is ever made in isolation.
"With regard to the planning grounds considered, senior officers looked into the impact of the loss of the laundrette but as the property is not within a Town Centre, Neighbourhood Centre or Shopping Centre (which are designated for commercial use) there was no planning grounds to refuse the principle of the proposed change of use."