A small business owner said she was ‘gobsmacked’ when she was given 28 days to remove her shop canopy or face a fine of up to £2,500.
Jo Price owns The Lunch Box, in St John’s Street, Chichester.
Last week, she received a letter from Chichester District Council telling her the canopy outside her café must be removed within 28 days or she could face a fine of up to £2,500 and £250 for each day after the ‘breach’ continues.
“It was a huge shock because I thought we had done everything nicely,” she said.
“It all looks beautiful, I think, and it is not up there for advertising, it is just our name. All businesses have their names above them.
“It is on a side street, it is not even on the main drag.”
Jo did not think she would need planning permission for the canopy because, when she took the shop over late last year, there was an existing, retractable, canopy outside (pictured, inset right).
“It was tatty looking and dirty looking and just said ‘Café’ which we are not,” she said.
“We just re-covered the structure he already had there. It has been there donkeys’ years.”
She added: “Our colours are lime green and pink but I thought ‘I’m not going to go in your face’ which is why I went for the toned-down grey.
“I think it is a really pretty-looking building now.”
Jo believes she might be allowed to keep the canopy if it was retractable.
“I think it is OK to put a retractable blind up there,” she said.
“But, I don’t know if that means I can have the same size or the same size letters.”
In the letter from the council it states: “The council’s shopfront and advertisement design guidance note advises the use of a traditional form of blind, either a retractable roller or fan-type canvas.”
Jo, however, is concerned about the cost of installing a retractable canvas.
“I did look into a retractable one and it will cost a couple of thousand pounds,” she said.
“We are only a little sandwich bar so to spend that much on a canopy is a bit ridiculous.
“If we take this one down I don’t know what we will do.”
She said she was disappointed the council was not doing more to support small business owners.
“I do feel all the little independent businesses have a hard time of it,” she said.
“It is OK for big, national companies. I want to say ‘Just give us a break’, it is not hurting anyone, it is not offensive.”
A spokesperson at Chichester District Council says: “We are working with the owner of The Lunch Box to find a suitable way forward with regard to the replacement canopy. Our officers have recently visited the owner at the premises.
“The Lunch Box is situated in a Conservation Area and so advertisements displayed are subject to greater controls under the Advertisement Regulations to ensure the character of the area is protected. The replacement canopy contains an advertisement for the business which is in breach of these regulations.
“We notified the owner the replacement canopy is in breach of planning control and requested that it be removed.
“The advertisement does not comply with the design principles set out in our Shopfront and Advertisement guidance for conservation areas and so an application for its retention would be unlikely to get support.”