Galashiels tattoo parlour wins planning appeal

Timebomb Tatto at 52 Bank Street, Galashiels.
Timebomb Tatto at 52 Bank Street, Galashiels.

A popular tattoo parlour in Galashiels threatened with closure has been saved by councillors following a disagreement over planning permission.

Timebomb Tattoo, at 52 Bank Street, applied to Scottish Borders Council to convert its premises into a tattoo parlour, after the shop had already opened.

Officers from the council’s planning department took a dim view of that change and refused the application, forcing Timebomb Tattoo to appeal against their decision in an attempt to keep the business open.

Outlining the reasons for refusal, officers said that a retail or a food shop would better suit the location, despite the town centre suffering from an increasing amount of derelict shop fronts.

“The level of contribution of the proposed use to the town’s core retail function will not be so significant as to justify its occupation by the proposed use and there is no evidence to suggest otherwise,” said planning officer Carlos Clarke in a report to councillors.

“The development would potentially detract from the vitality and viability of the town centre, and no other material considerations would outweigh this potential harm.”

Footfall in Scottish Borders town centres has fallen dramatically over the last decade, leading to an increase in empty shops. 

Galashiels has been especially hard hit, with a recent retail survey showing that 37 retail units are currently standing empty in the town centre.

Recently, the council agreed to relax restrictions on businesses opening up in Galashiels as part of a retail pilot aimed at reversing the decline in footfall and occupancy rates.

Following the introduction of the pilot scheme, the owner of Timebomb Tattoo, Craig Oliver, appealed to the council’s local review body to overturn the officers’ decision and allow the shop to remain a tattoo parlour.

Speaking at a meeting of the local review body today, Kelso councillor Simon Mountford said: “I think it’s obviously material, from our point of view, that this was determined before our new policy was introduced, and, in a sense, this is a test of how flexible our new pilot scheme is.

“I have to confess that I am completely ignorant about tattooing. It’s not something I can claim any expertise on. However, it does appear to be a quality business. It has been shortlisted for some awards. It attracts people from outwith the area and even from overseas.

“I think it’s analogous to an artist’s workshop. It is selling artwork. Someone’s body is in fact the canvas and the art is being portrayed on that.

“Although it’s not strictly speaking retail, it is selling something. It’s selling the skills of the artist. Undoubtedly, it contributes to the vitality of the town centre.”

Jedburgh councillor Scott Hamilton agreed, saying: “I’m very much on the same lines as councillor Mountford. It has an attractive shop frontage. It does add to the street.

“Our policies have changed, and I’m very welcoming of any businesses wanting to open on our high streets.”

Councillors voted unanimously to overturn the officers’ decision, meaning Timebomb Tattoo is free to continue trading from 52 Bank Street.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Oliver said: “I’m very relieved, and I’m glad the council can see that there is a viable, vibrant business here. It’s busy. It’s good for the high street, and it is bringing people in.

“It attracts all walks of life – social workers, police, everybody is coming in. Gone are the days of tattoos being taboo.”