There were tears of joy in the council’s public gallery after Hastings planners went against an officer’s recommendation and approved proposals for home-based hairdressing business.
Last month Hastings Borough Council’s planning committee considered a change of use application intended to allow hairdresser Donna Burford to continue running a salon from her family home in Wesley Salmon Close.
Before making its decision, the committee heard how Ms Burford had begun running the business from home as a result of her ill health, which was said to make it impossible for her to work outside of her home.
Speaking on her behalf, planning agent Graham Fifield said: “The background to the application is that because of serious health issues the applicant can only work from home.
“Knowing that there were a number of other small businesses that operate from home in the area, the applicant was not aware that her use would require planning permission.
“The applicant works alone in a very small part of the property, a utility room. No staff are employed and the hours of use are as set out in the officers’ report.
“Because of the applicant’s disability the stark truth is if the use had to cease she would have no option but to cease working, with all of the implications that involves.
“It is appreciated that personal circumstances are not normally themselves sufficient to grant planning permission, but when taken in connection with other matter they can be decisive.”
Planning officers, however, had recommended the application be refused due to concerns over the business causing disruption to a residential area.
The matter had first been brought to council’s attention last year, following a complaint from a resident about the business operating from the address.
While Ms Burford applied for planning permission to continue running the business at that time, it was refused by council planners. An appeal against the refusal was also dismissed by the planning inspectorate.
Both the original application and the appeal had been refused on the grounds that a hairdressing business would be inappropriate for a residential area and would cause disruption as customers came and went.
An objection was also raised to the application by a neighbouring household on these grounds.
This view was not shared by other residents, however, with a large group of them turning out to support Ms Burford at the planning meeting.
Speaking on behalf of these residents, 30 of whom had signed a petition calling on planners to approve the application, was Ms Burford’s neighbour Christine Crouch.
She said: “Surely the best judges about whether the neighbourhood is being harmed and the lack of disruption in the last 17 months are the neighbours. They are, by a vast majority, supportive.”
The views of residents proved to be a key factor for the committee, with several councillors voicing their support.
They included Cllr Mike Edwards (Con, Ashdown), who said: “Who are we to say we know better than the local residents, the people who live around about the premises in question.
“This lady is operating what I would suggest is probably a pretty modest business in scale, providing her with a fairly modest income but at the same time providing a valuable service for local people.
“We should be supporting local businesses, which provide a local income for local people.”
Meanwhile, Silverhill councillor Margi O’Callahan (Lab) said: “I think it is great to see the community come together and believe in something so strongly.
“This is a community that is shouting really loudly as far as I am concerned and we should be listening to them more.”
Following further discussion the planning committee opted to go against officer’s advice and approve the scheme, prompting tears of joy from Ms Burford in the public gallery.
The approval included conditions to limit working hours in an effort to reduce any potential disruption.