Shop ignored council order to halt trade

The owner of a 24-hour internet cafe and computer shop in Wollongong has been fined $10,000 for failing to get the required approvals to run his business and then ignoring letters ordering him to stop trading.

Bin Zhou, director of Pxcite Computer Sales and Services Pty Ltd, fronted Wollongong Local Court yesterday on charges of failing to get development consent and not ceasing use of premises as specified in an order.

He pleaded guilty to both charges, but asked Magistrate Michael Stoddart for leniency, saying he did not think it was necessary for him to be fined.

Mr Stoddart disagreed, telling Zhou it was a serious offence that carried a maximum fine of up to $1.1 million.

The court heard Zhou had moved his business from 236 Crown Street, where he had full development approval, to 281 Crown Street in April 2011, but had not lodged the required development application requesting permission to trade on the new site.

Wollongong City Council was first alerted to the matter after receiving a complaint from a member of the public the same month and carried out an inspection of the site on May 26.

Council officers spoke with Zhou, who admitted he didn't have approval to run the business.

The council issued a $3000 fine to the business the same day, and sent out formal letters ordering him to stop trading, and take down any associated signage.

However, Zhou ignored the order and continued to trade.

On June 24 council officers sent another letter to Zhou telling him to stop trading, but he ignored this order too.

He was issued with a second fine of $3000 four days later.

The council wrote to Zhou again on August 3 advising him to stop using the premises, prompting Zhou to call the council officer in charge a week later and leave a message.

Subsequent return phone calls from the council went unanswered.

Zhou lodged a development application on August 11, which was approved on September 14, however it did not negate the two charges.

Peter Weber, acting for the council, said yesterday Zhou had been well aware he didn't have approval to run the business and well aware he needed it.

In a written statement to the court, Zhou said he had moved the business because the internet cafe side of his business was "not running well", however he hadn't sought development approval because he wanted to "focus on computer sales and service".

"We are an existing family business and if we close we would lose many customers and we'll suffer great financial pain," he wrote in the letter.

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