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Gillingham couple say Medway Council planning restrictions have added 'extra stress' to their hair salon business


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A married couple have been forced to change their business idea after Medway Council bosses refused to give them permanent planning permission to build a hair salon in their back garden.

Long-standing hairdressers Keith Owen and his wife Louise, 47, of Wigmore, said the decision made by Medway's planning committee - to grant temporary planning permission to run a hair salon at their home for 12 months - has left them "frustrated" and caused added strain on their family.

Keith and Louise Owen from Wigmore whose application to open a hair salon in their garden has been hit by set backs (16072085)
Keith and Louise Owen from Wigmore whose application to open a hair salon in their garden has been hit by set backs (16072085)

It comes after a five-month battle with the local planning authority over their application, which received several objections from neighbours and councillors, due to concerns over lack of parking, the hours of operation and noise impact on Georgian Way residents.

Mr Owen said the perceived issues have been "blown out of proportion" and instead, the application process has caused significant strain on his family, including Mrs Owen, who has multiple sclerosis, and their three children, 14-year-old Lily, Martha, 17, and Isaac, 20.

The 46-year-old, who currently runs Owen Hair Design, in Rainham, with his wife, said: "It has been blown so far out of proportion with the idea of hairdressing in our back garden.

"We do not want to build a 'glorified shed' as some people have described it and there will not be a big salon with loads of signs.

"Lots of businesses work from home without going through the proper channels.

The Owens current hair salon (16072082)
The Owens current hair salon (16072082)

"My wife and I wanted to make sure we were doing it the proper way (by submitting a planning application) and do not want to upset the neighbours.

"But, we are now going to look at changing what we are doing because of the stress it is causing us."

Together, the couple have run a hairdressing business on Station Road for 16-and-a-half years but now want to downsize and are in the process of selling their unit for a "few thousand pounds".

Mr and Mrs Owen, the sole workers of the new business, set their sights on using the funds to invest in a permanent home business and to help pay for their children's school and university education.

However, their plans faced a significant setback last month when Medway council's planning committee voted down their proposal at Chatham's Gun Wharf.

'We are now going to look at changing what we are doing because of the stress it is causing us,' Keith Owen

The committee authorised planning permission on a temporary basis but said it would be reviewed after 12 months - on August 31, 2020 - to enable officers to assess the impact of the hair salon on neighbours.

During the August planning meeting, ward councillor Diane Chambers (Con), chairman of the planning committee, voiced her concerns, saying: "I know the area well. Georgian Way is quite a narrow road and in a number of instances people will park on the pavement because of the difficulty in manoeuvring."

However, Mr Owen countered there would be suitable parking space availability at the back of the house for the Gillingham couple's clients, who would serve a maximum of four clients.

This would be done on an appointment only basis, with each session expected to cost between £50 and £60 for the customer.

An opening date has yet to be set for Mr and Mrs Owen's new business, but it is expected to operate three days a week on Tuesdays, from 10am to 6pm; Fridays, from 10am to 8pm and Saturdays from 9am to 4pm.

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