Support for Louth businesswoman after complaint over new shop signs

The local community has offered support to a Louth clothes shop after a ‘narrow minded miserable person’ complained to the district council about the design of their new shop frontage - which has resulted in potential enforcement action being taken by the council.

The current shop front, which has been in place since September 2020.

Kerry Ashby, who owns the Chameleon women’s clothing shop in Mercer Row, put up some bright new signs and a garland around the doorway back in September.

Kerry said she was trying to make the area ‘bright and cheerful’, adding that she had received lots of positive comments since doing so.

However, she did not know she had to apply for planning permission before altering the shop frontage.

The 'old' shop front at Chameleon in Mercer Row, Louth.

Now - more than three months later - the district council has conducted an investigation following a complaint, and determined that the new signage constitutes a ‘breach of planning control’. If this breach is not resolved, Kerry and her business could expect face ‘formal enforcement action’ from the district council.

Posting on social media, Kerry said: “Over the next few weeks my new sign will be disappearing.

“No, I’m not closing down, but some narrow minded miserable person has complained to the council that it doesn’t ‘fit in’ with the town!

“I will be honest and admit I didn’t apply for planning permission because I didn’t know that it was needed.

“I have had lots of positive comments as it’s bright and cheerful and I wanted to attract visitors to the shop which is at the end of the town which often gets missed “But no, someone who has nothing better to do sticks the boot in. Why don’t they complain about the shops that don’t paint (or) pick weeds and litter up?

“So now, during already tough times financially, I have to pay out to have another boring sign made and fitted.

“So if you’re reading this which I’m sure you will be because you’re a busybody - thanks!

“It may not be everyone’s choice but you can’t please everyone but it’s bright clean and cheerful. So all in all you’ve cost me £600 and a load of hassle.”

Less than 24 hours after publishing on social media, Kerry’s post has already received more than 200 comments - almost all of which are firmly in her favour.

Kerry told the Leader: “I think the vinyl is one problem but really it’s because it stands out (the whole idea), but I put a new vinyl sign up when I took over from Bromley’s seven years ago without any problems and nothing was every mentioned, so I assumed I could put a new sign any time.

“I’m so overwhelmed by the support I’ve had.

“I visit lots of quaint seaside and country towns all over England, and the attraction is the pretty shops and cafes.

“It’s as if they won’t move with the times. What about all the scruffy empty and open shops who have no pride in their property?

“From the letter it’s clear a person has complained so they have to act on it, (but) what about all the fabulous comments?

“I feel strongly as I’m trying to improve the town and attract custom to a part of town that’s often ignored by visitors, as they think the town ends at the market.”

Kerry claims that, despite her requests, the Planning Enforcement Officer who initially contacted her about the breach has not offered any advice on applying for retrospective planning permission, or the associated costs. Kerry added that she has since spoken to several local councillors for advice on the matter.

The Louth Leader contacted the district council today (Wednesday) for a response regarding their investigation on this matter.

East Lindsey District Council’s Enforcement Service Manager, Jo Parker, said: “Many of the buildings in the district are listed buildings and any essential or desirable work needs to be managed through a Listed Building application.

“This building is a Grade II which does require a Listed Building application.

“As a local authority we support all trade in the towns and actively encourage economic growth whilst also preserving the history of our conservation areas which is an important part of the character and history.

“We support and work with all businesses by offering help and advice to ensure they are clear on the parameters of what is and isn’t an option prior to submitting an application.”