A NEW furniture store in Henley has been accused of ignoring planning rules.
Sharps, which took over the former Goldsmiths jewellers premises in Bell Street last month, has changed the shop front without permission.
The firm’s consultants submitted an application in January to repaint the timber fascia black and add an illuminated aluminium hanging sign but then went ahead with the work before a decision had been made by South Oxfordshire District Council.
Speaking at a meeting of Henley Town Council’s planning committee, chairman Dieter Hinke said: “They have completely ignored any sort of planning permission and gone ahead, which amazes me.”
He said the new black frontage was “clearly wrong” on a Grade II listed building and was also in breach of the district council’s guidance on shop fronts.
Councillor Elizabeth Hodgkin said a screen was built in front of the shop while the work was carried out and the district council launched an investigation.
Planning officer Simon Kitson wrote to the consultants, Spencer Signs, saying: “I would reiterate that works to the listed building which do not benefit from listed building consent are a criminal offence where they harm its special architectural or historic interest.
“On this basis, an enforcement investigation has been opened and I would strongly urge your clients to cease work and seek guidance from the council.”
An amended application was submitted last month which said the hanging sign would now be made from timber and would no longer be illuminated.
Cllr Hinke said the district council had also asked for a reduction in the amount of black on the shop front.
The committee recommended the application for refusal. The district council will make a final decision by March 25.
A Sharps spokeswoman said: “We are extremely sorry for any oversight. We are working closely with the planning authority to resolve any errors. Sharps is looking forward to being part of the Henley community and hope our new showroom will ultimately add to the character and ambiance of Bell Street.”
Members also opposed an application by Johnson Cleaners, also in Bell Street, to replace a fascia sign.
Cllr Hinke said the proposed timber hanging sign was “very attractive” but it should be smaller.
Councillor David Clenshaw said: “Two bricks should be visible below the windows and the pilasters should be completely uncovered.”
A retrospective application by the Full House chip shop in Friday Street for a new sign was also recommended for refusal.
Cllr Hinke said: “It is a wonderful chip shop but I personally don’t like the sign. I think it is too large. I don’t like white signs of that size in the conservation area.”
The committee reccommended approval of an application by the Argyll pub in Market Place for new signage.