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Blind eye turned after tattoo artist breaches planning rules

An Aldershot tattoo artist has criticised the need for planning permission which would have landed him with a £385 bill to continue his established business

Clive Charles, Mark McCormick and Dominic Burton of Sins and Needles

A tattoo artist who was asked to pay £385 to alter planning permission for his Aldershot business has labelled the fee ‘mad’.

Mark McCormick, 30, has been running Sins & Needles tattoo studio in Ash Road for the past 14 months, but was criticised by members of Rushmoor Borough Council’s development control committee for failing to obtain the necessary permission to use the building for this purpose.

Despite the lack of payment being described as irresponsible and unfair to other rule-abiding business owners, the council will take no further action against Sins & Needles.

The studio originally shared the shop with a hairdressers, but has been the sole occupant since March. The building already has retail planning permission, but, because tattoo studios fall into a separate category, Mr McCormick was invited to apply for retrospective permission to change its use. The application costs £385, and the council’s invitation was refused.

Mr McCormick, from Aldershot, said: “I wrote a letter to the council saying there was no difference between what it is now and what they wanted.

“It’s not like we’re trying to con anyone. No structural changes were needed. I can see why they do it, but it’s not much difference between a barbers and a tattoo shop. The planning side of it is mad.

“There are probably a lot of successful businesses that haven’t done that.”

Clive Charles, who works in the tattoo studio, said he had previously found planning regulations obstructive when trying to open his own studio in Godalming.

“The rules were almost ludicrous,” he said. “You’ve got to buy all these plans and stuff. By the time you've done that you’re at a loss before you’ve even started.”

At a recent committee meeting, Councillor Clive Grattan said he felt stronger action should be taken in cases where regulations have been ignored.

“It seems to be a cheap way of getting around asking for permission,” he said. “I think we should be taking a hard stance on this.”

Despite this view, members voted to take no further action against Sins & Needles for fear of ending up with an empty shop instead.

Head of planning Keith Holland said: “Clearly we would like them to apply for planning permission but we have to consider what is the harm. If enforcement action were taken and it were shut down what would be achieved?

“It’s providing a service, albeit not one that I would use. You’re going to say we’re letting them get away with it, and maybe we are, but is it expedient to take action? We’re saying it isn’t.”

Committee chairman Cllr Gareth Lyon said he was made aware of around 15 cases each year of businesses operating without the necessary planning permission. Although he had sympathy for those charged hundreds of pounds for a relatively minor detail, he said the rules were in place for an important reason.

He said: “I understand why people want to avoid unnecessary paperwork, but these are the same rules that stop the local corner shop turning into a takeaway and changing the character of the area.

“They assist development, protect the character of the town and ensure that everyone has a say in how the town is developed.”



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