A RESTAURANTEUR is facing court action if she fails to remove lights outside her property, which the council says are unlawful.

Sally Smith, who runs La Cantina Bistro and Restaurant in Usk, put up five swan neck lights outside its entrance in Bridge Street to make the area safer at night for customers.

But Monmouthshire council's Planning department say the lights, which cost La Cantina £1,000, are unlawful because they do not have planning permission and are unsuitable within the Usk Conservation Area.

Mrs Smith claims to have received a "very threatening" letter in February telling her to take them down, and was told any appeal would be declined. Another letter in June said she had 14 days to remove the lights or face prosecution in the magistratesÕ court.

This could result in a maximum penalty of £2,500 and an additional daily fine of £250 for every day after conviction that the lights remain in place.

Mrs Smith, who also runs a South African shop Biltong2u Ltd in Llancayo Court, hit out at the authority, claiming it should do more to help independent businesses thrive, at a time when others around it are closing.

She said: "David Cameron has been saying all the time he wants to relax the planning laws to help small businesses and Monmouthshire Planning Department come along and do this."

The council's enforcement manager Paula Clarke said: "Unfortunately the lights continue to be used and no positive steps have been taken by the owner to resolve the matter.

"The council recently advised that unless the lights were removed within 14 days we would have to commence prosecution proceedings for the offence. The council remains available to discuss alternatives with the owner."

Mrs Smith said the lights are in place but have never been used and says she has requested a meeting with planners several times but they have failed to respond.