Red tape leaves businessman between rock and a hard place

A WESTON businessman says council red tape could damage his business after being ordered to remove an inflatable stick of rock man.

Pete Swaysland, owner of the Rock Shop in Victoria Square, says he was shocked when North Somerset Council told him to take down the 4.6metre-high advertisement as it deemed too garish and ‘detrimental to the surrounding area’.

That was despite the fact it had already been there for several months, and had drawn no criticism from neighbours and nearby businesses.

The pink rock man, manufactured by Megaflatables, had been in place outside the shop for four months before council planning chiefs said it needed planning permission.

When Mr Swaysland agreed to take it down and submit a planning application, it was refused on the grounds that due to its height, design and combination of colours it was too garish.

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In refusing his application, the council said it ‘would be detrimental to the appearance of the existing building and the visual amenity of the surrounding rea.’

Mr Swaysland, who has run the shop for the past 23 years, says he thinks the decision was unfair and is now appealing it with the Planning Inspectorate.

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An offer to reduce it in size was also rejected by the authority.

He said: “For the past three-four years we have had to put up with Weston’s promenade as a constant building site, which has been detrimental to tourism.

“In order to boost my business I thought the rock man would be a fun way to attract

customers and it proved successful while it was up for a few hours a day, until

the council told me to take it down.

“Megaflatables says because it is portable I do not need planning permission but North Somerset Council has a different view and despite me completing the council’s request, it was turned down anyway.”

He has the support of some neighbouring businesses and residents.

Paul Fella, of next door Fella’s Crazy Golf and Ice Cream Kiosk, said: “I own the neighbouring business and I have no objection to it.

“We are a seaside town and the inflatable rock was fantastic, promoting Weston as a

traditional English resort.”

Jo Rogers, who lives above the shop, added: “My little girl loved seeing the rock man, so we were sad to see him go. We hope to see him up again.”

A spokesman for the council said it would be inappropriate to comment after Mr Swaysland lodged his appeal.

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