Caffe Nero has come under strong criticism from councillors for opening its Bankside branch without obtaining planning permission.
The space was formerly occupied by the Golden Hinde's shop and visitor centre. Planning permission was granted in May 2005 to fill in two of the arches between St Mary Overie Dock and Clink Street to provide a museum, shop and classroom for visitors to the Golden Hinde.
In 2006 a planning application to turn the space into a coffee shop was rejected because the arrangements for waste disposal were deemed unsatisfactory.
Although its revised application was still pending, the coffee shop chain went ahead and began trading anyway.
Community Council chair Cllr Adele Morris, sitting with three fellow councillors as the planning authority, expressed surprise that Caffe Nero had not only opened its Bankside branch without seeking planning consent but failed to be present for the hearing of a retrospective application.
"Can our displeasure be conveyed?" she asked. "This is not the first time this company has moved in first and applied later. We are not impressed."
The meeting was held at Charles Dickens Primary School, where, after a long discussion, Tim McNally said that whilst the behaviour was "reprehensible" there was no valid reason for rejecting the late application.
Although the placing of tables and chairs on the pavement remains an outstanding issue it was reluctantly agreed to grant approval for the change of use of the premises.
Caffe Nero has also opened a branch in Lordship Lane, Dulwich, prior to applying for planning permission. Dulwich Community Council refused permission; the matter is now the subject of a planning appeal.