Martha in pink over backing for colour purple

Martha Gibson owner of 'The Purple Shop' in Innerleithen.

Martha Gibson owner of 'The Purple Shop' in Innerleithen.

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Innerleithen shopkeeper Martha Gibson says she has been overwhelmed by the support she has received in the town since being told the purple frontage of her small retail outlet is in breach of Scottish Borders Council planning policies.

Mrs Gibson incurred the disapproval of the council’s local review body last month after seeking retrospective planning permission for the colour scheme at her Treasure Island premises in Leithen Road.

Although it is a year since the shop front was painted, Mrs Gibson required consent because it lies within Innerleithen’s conservation area.

However, councillors upheld the March decision of a local planning officer who deemed the colour “incongruous”, claiming it caused “a jarring juxtaposition with the softer, neutral tones of the buildings it relates to”.

As reported in the Southern last week, Mrs Gibson described that ruling as “absolutely ridiculous” and said she had no intention of complying, citing “wild inconsistencies” in shop colours and architectural styles throughout Innerleithen.

Now, her defiant stance has sparked a show of support in the town, including the circulation of a petition backing her in other shops and pubs at the weekend.

In one outlet alone, the Village Store in High Street, the petition has already attracted more than 200 signatures.

“I had nothing to do with this petition, which has, I understand, been started by a lady who wishes to remain anonymous but feels, as I do, that I’m being victimised by an inflexible planning system,” said Mrs Gibson.

“I seem to have unwittingly become the talk of the town, and I’m overwhelmed with the support I’ve had, both on social media and from people I meet in the street.

“It now takes me an hour to walk along High Street because so many folk are stopping to chat and saying they feel there is nothing wrong with the colour and that the council should have something better to do.

“It’s also been pointed out to me that the town’s big visitor attraction – the St Ronan’s Wells Centre, which is run by the council – is painted a garish blue, which is hardly in keeping with its surroundings.

“All I have done in a bid to make my shop more attractive is paint a Victorian building in a Victorian colour.”

Mrs Gibson said that since the review board made its decision on July 18, she has received no formal communication from the council repeating its request to her to submit a fresh planning application for consent to repaint the frontage “in a more appropriate colour”.

A council spokesperson said: “We would firstly seek to resolve any issue through discussions and negotiations, but if this is unsuccessful, the council does have the option of serving a notice to ensure any unauthorised works are removed.”