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Published: 06:00, 28 July 2019
The owners of a nail bar who tacked a huge flashing neon sign onto the front of an historic building have been accused of “an act of vandalism”.
Tenterden residents were hit by a blaze of red, blue and lilac lights pulsating from the hastily-constructed Nail Expert sign, installed as new owners converted the former Carole Ridley dress shop in the High Street - a Grade II-listed building.
Nail bar manager Huong Dong said her team were unaware that they had done anything wrong and expressed surprise over the brush with planning law.
She said: “We are new here and just wanted to make the shop look good and the sign noticeable.”
She pointed out that the Central Garage sign on the opposite side of the High Street was bigger than the one installed by the nail bar.
The 29-year-old added: “We don’t want to upset anyone in Tenterden and if we have done anything wrong we will correct it.
"We want to blend in with Tenterden.”
Wood batons, rope and polystyrene blocks appear to be supporting the sign on the premises, which sits in the picturesque conservation area, within the shadow of 12th Century, Grade I-listed St Mildred’s Church.
Borough and Tenterden North Ward councillor Paul Clokie said: “The sign is quite abhorrent and it does not have planning permission and I’m trying to contact the owner to point out what they need to do.”
One resident who did not wish to be named said: “Putting up the sign like that is an act of vandalism and makes a mockery of planning regulations.
“It looks like the fascia of the Carole Ridley shop has been damaged in the process and it’s a listed building.
“There’s also an air conditioning unit stuck on the side of the building with a big pipe trailing down and it’s in a conservation area right by St Mildred’s Church."
A formal complaint has been filed to Ashford Borough Council (ABC) concerning the sign, which is being investigated by the planning enforcement team and has been given a priority rating of two.
Tenterden town council confirmed it has already received a number of complaints about the sign.
Town clerk Phil Burgess said: “While we welcome new businesses to Tenterden, shopkeepers are obliged - along with everyone else living in the town - to observe the strict and long-established rules governing our conservation area, which are so essential for preserving the character of the town.
“Unfortunately, the owner of the nail bar has not followed the rules, and Ashford Borough Council will be investigating the matter.”
A spokesman for Ashford Borough Council confirmed that the premises to which the Nail Expert sign has been affixed is Grade II-listed.
He added: “We have received information about the alleged breach and are currently investigating the matter."
Huong Dong, 29, said she has since emailed the planning team at Ashford Borough Council for advice.
She added: “We want to offer the best nail service in Tenterden and we have a lot of experience as we had a shop in Ashford.
“I apologise to anyone who has been affected [by the work]”.