Council ‘lack consistency and common sense’ on law

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A COUNCIL crackdown on business owners making alterations to the their premises could spell the end of some town centre firms.

Shop owners have called for “common sense” to prevail when the council applies its planning laws to matters involving change of shop fronts and signs.

Chris Mayers has owned the premises that is now home to Fonehouse for the past six years.

“The place was looking tired and we’ve brightened it up,” she argued, having changed the facade from red to white. “I had phoned up SBC and was told that if I was tidying it up, I don’t need planning permission.”

Fonehouse manager Chris Souden is concerned that the franchise under which the shop operates – as well as Apple, supplier of products to the business – may pull out if the shop has to change from white. He added: “It’s no wonder so many shops are closing when shop owners are getting bother. There’s no common sense.

“Also, if the shops are dull and boring, people will want to go elsewhere to do their shopping.

The ‘tidying up’ referred to by Ms Mayers appears to conflict with the council’s view of ‘building maintenance’. A council spokesman told the Hawick News: “In simple terms where a building is located within a conservation area, a like-for-like piece of work would be classed as maintenance.”

Community councillor Evelyn Sangster raised the issue during this week’s town hall meeting of a red, blue and white sign erected at Sandbed takeaway Chicken Hut. She said: “If they didn’t have planning permission, it should come down. We’re in a conservation area.” The owner of the takeaway, Aziz Shoukat, told the Hawick News his signmaker advised that only illuminated signs required planning permission.

The council says guidance on the issue is readily available to shop owners.