Wetherby residents are calling for stricter planning controls on “tacky” and “garish” shop fronts which they say are ruining the look of the quaint market town.
A debate has been raging on The Wetherby News Facebook page about whether certain shops that have recently opened on the high street, including e-cigarette shops and nail bars with “ugly neon signs”, are a blight on the town.
More than 70 comments have been made about the issue, with many saying the shops should be more in-keeping with other buildings in the conservation area, but most agreeing that it is better than shops being left empty.
Anne Hyde wrote: “It’s a good thing that shops are no longer empty but some of the new businesses have tacky facades to say the least. There should be stricter guidelines on using flashing signage etc.”
Hayley Mcallister said: “I love Wetherby and shop local and use the local restaurants and businesses, however, in my opinion shops should keep to a certain signage rule. Like York has too.
“It’s a beautiful town which I love dearly and the people. But I’d rather see the shops used than empty.”
Janie Ragg added: “Why do we need two e-cigarette shops with ugly neon signs and more nail salons totally spoiling the look of our lovely market town? It’s such a shame for the established businesses that care about our town and its appearance.”
Tiep Nguyen, owner of River Nails, on Westgate, said he couldn’t understand why people were complaining about the appearance of his shop, which is painted bright pink and features flashing signs in the window.
He said: “We have a shop in Horsforth and we do exactly the same there and people say it looks nice and very attractive.
“We want to make the shop look nice so more people know about us. I think there is nothing wrong with the colour. We are trying to make the shop more beautiful.
“The flashing signs are to attract people and make them look better. I don’t think there’s anything wrong.”
The owner of e-cigarette shop Fresh Mist, on Westgate, Louise Burton, also defended her business.
She said: “I totally understand where your all coming from but may I point out that when I took on this shop I made every effort to make it fit in with Wetherby’s image. If anyone thinks otherwise then please let me know here and I will do my utmost to change it.
“I don’t have neon lights and bright paint etc. I went for a very simple approach to designing the shop front and went for style over plastering distasteful graphics all over the windows. Please believe me I was very conscious of where I was opening this shop and fully understanding the heritage of this beautiful old market town I did my best to make it fit in.”
Supporting the new businesses, Olivia Smith said: “Much better than empty shops or charity shops. Lots of shops have bright frontage, good luck to the newbies.”
While Sarah Howat added: “The sign of the new nail bar might not be great but the staff in their are lovely and polite. They do a nice job and for those of us who prefer that style of nail it saves a hike to Leeds.”
Catherine Spence, the owner of Sant’ Angelo, in High Street, claimed it was “one rule for one and one rule for others” after she was forced to repaint her business due to the colour being deemed unsuitable.
She said: “We had to repaint Sant Angelo’s at great expense because the council said it was too bright.”
Agreeing, Carolyn Carlton said: “I don’t see how the council can tell Sant’ Angelo Italian restaurant that their colour is too bright and they are an established business, but allow new businesses to put up neon signs, the world’s gone mad.”
The Mayor of Wetherby, Coun Harry Chapman told the Wetherby News that there should be stricter measures in place.
He said: “As far as I’m concerned I totally agree with what everyone is saying. These shops are not in-keeping and we would like to see less garish facades, but if they are within the planning guidelines there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s a matter for the Leeds City Council planning department to resolve. At the end of the day these shops are in a conservation area and something should be done.”
A spokesman for Leeds City Council, said: “We are aware of the recent changes to the nail bar and these are being investigated by an enforcement officer.
“The painting of shop fronts does not need planning permission and non-illuminated signs above shops do not require advertisement consent.
“However the council does have some powers to take action against signs where there is harm caused – we would take into account the impact and sensitivity of the location in reaching that decision.
“We would suggest that anyone who wishes to raise concerns about shop front can do so by contacting Planning Enforcement on 0113 222 4409.”