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Getting planning permission – Jan Marketis, Director, Fun ‘n’ Frolic

Jan Marketis, Director, Fun ‘n’ Frolic

Our party store, Fun ‘n’ Frolic, started trading in 1987 from small premises (800 sq ft) in the centre of Reading.

Ten years later, we relocated to a bigger unit on the edge of the town centre. Eventually, the building that we occupied was purchased by Unite, a company specialising in student accommodation. So, when our lease came to an end, we began to look for alternative premises.

We settled on a large warehouse unit in excess of 10,000 sq ft and submitted a planning application to the local council to change the use of the building from a warehouse with a trade counter to full retail use. Unfortunately, despite an indication from the planning department that there shouldn’t be any problem, our planning application was refused.

The landlord who owned the warehouse decided that we could move in on a daily rental basis until the planning issue had been resolved. We had no alternative but to move in and keep our fingers crossed.

Just before our move we submitted a second application, beefing up the information to support our move. To our horror we were informed by the planning officer that this was also going to be turned down.

So now we were in a situation where we had moved into the warehouse, set up on a temporary basis, started trading, but with the prospect of having either to find alternative premises or to cease trading.

The next move was to hire a planning consultant and, together with our surveyor, additional evidence to support our application was submitted to the council. As this was a ‘do or die’ situation we also produced copies of our application, regular updates and information for all the local councillors to enlist support for our cause. We contacted local papers, radio and TV stations with press releases.

Our local branch of the Federation of Small Businesses also became involved as part of their Keep Business Local campaign.

The result of all this pressure was that the whole matter was discussed at a full council planning committee meeting. There was no opposition, the planning application was passed, and my husband Kelvyn and myself could get a decent night’s sleep at last.

My message to any of you facing a similar dilemma is to apply as much pressure as you can, enlist professional help, and don’t give up trying.

Finally, with Halloween coming up, if you need any costumes, accessories and decorations , do think of us! To find out more, please visit the Fun ‘n’ Frolic website.

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