5 June 1998

Small business is hamstrung

I operate a business from a converted barn on our farm selling baby equipment and toys with a temporary planning permission for five years. I re-applied this year for full planning permission but have been issued again with a temporary licence for only 18 months. I feel this is not encouraging rural businesses.

This does not provide a solid base to run a business, recognise the amount of time and money that have been invested it or create a stable environment for the staff.

I followed the route of farm diversification as two families live on a family farm and an extra source of income is required. It gave me the opportunity to work from home while bringing up a young family. The business has taken five years to build up a loyal customer base, provides excellent service and supports the local community by running car seat safety check days and First Aid courses. It also employs four local people on a part-time basis. Other restrictions imposed include shortening of opening hours, while my rates and overheads stay the same. Sunday opening (three hours in total) has been removed and no extra hours have been allowed in the week to compensate.

Sunday has become a national trading day and an important day to us. This was all emphasised to the planning officer prior to the application but no consideration was given to my requirements. How is a small business expected to operate and function effectively – particularly as an extra clause stipulated that deliveries were only to take place during opening hours. Even though the vehicles are in the village making other deliveries and the regular drivers know we live on site, they cannot deliver on a day we are closed.

The planning department has not received any written complaints from local residents.

I believe businesses like mine are satisfying a need by providing extra income to family farms, employment in country areas and giving personal service and satisfaction to the community. Surely the planning authorities should be giving encouragement, not placing more restrictions?

Sue Dronfield

Nippers, Fields Farm, Marton, near Rugby, Warwickshire.