Forfar church congregation feeling blue over red tape

Susan Beattie, the Rev Barbara-Ann Sweetin, Alison Liddle and Doug Findlay at The Big Kirk Shop in East High Street.
Susan Beattie, the Rev Barbara-Ann Sweetin, Alison Liddle and Doug Findlay at The Big Kirk Shop in East High Street.

A Forfar church congregation has been left feeling blue after being caught up in red tape.

Members of the East and Old Parish Church had hoped to make improvements to The Big Kirk charity shop which they rent at the church gates.

But what started as a simple request to Angus Council for permission to change the colour of the building from blue, to a more appropriate colour in the conservation area, has left them seeing red.

The Rev. Barbara Ann Sweetin said: “The shop is painted a horrible blue and the paint is all flaking off. We wanted a sign above the shop and to paint the shop front sandstone to fit in with the flats above.

“Many months ago we spoke to a planning officer at Angus Council about something else and mentioned we would like to change the colour. “‘Any colour other than the blue it is just now would be great’, we were told.

“We filled in online the pre-planning form on the council web page and sent it off. Over three weeks later and after phoning a further twice we were informed the sign above the shop would be okay but we needed planning permission to change the colour to sandstone since we are in a conservation area.

“We had already sanded down the rough patches, filled in the holes and painted the wooden window frames in readiness of permission. We do not own the shop but we want East High Street to look good, especially a shop next to our church and one that we are renting. Planning costs £201 and, needless to say, we really cannot spend money like that just to change the colour to something that everybody wants. It is no wonder people break the rules and it looks like we will need to repaint the shop front in that awful blue.”

A spokesman for Angus Council said: “Government planning regulations specifically state the stone cleaning or painting of the exterior building within a conservation area is not permitted without permission. Planning fees are set by the government. We are happy to provide advice in support of the necessary application for this property, which lies within the local conservation area. We recognise the efforts being made to improve the property’s appearance and have already offered advice regards the signage. Our officers have also indicated the work proposed is likely to be supported should an application for planning permission be submitted.”