Controversial Kelso restaurant sign can stay in place despite objections from conservationists

The controversial Salt 'N' Fire signage.The controversial Salt 'N' Fire signage.
The controversial Salt 'N' Fire signage.
An illuminated 3D restaurant sign in Kelso labelled “excessive and badly arranged” by planners, heritage experts and community groups has been approved by a government reporter.

Conservation groups condemned the signage erected without planning permission by chef Anthony Khoury at the the Salt ‘N’ Fire eatery in Kelso’s Horsemarket.

Critics labelled the sign – featuring a distinctive orange flame engulfing the letter ‘N’ – “very urban in nature”, particularly as it is located in a Conservation Area.

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But Mr Khoury’s representative warned that the likely alternative was empty commercial properties, where upkeep and neglect often end with unsightly buildings and streetscapes.

The case of the Salt ‘N’ Fire signage was referred to the Scottish Government’s planning appeals department after SBC planners rejected a retrospective application from Mr Khoury for planning permission. He had been served with an enforcement notice seeking its removal.

Now Scottish government reporter Trudi Craggs has determined that the signage can stay in place.

She said: “Kelso Community Council, Kelso Heritage Society and the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland all objected to the application.

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“I accept that the sign is larger than others along the street and that the main words are three dimensional. It is bolder, has more colours and because of the flames, is not completely rectangular. It is not flat against the wall but that was not apparent until alongside the building.

“However, given the eclectic mix of buildings and signs which in my view is a characteristic of the conservation area, the signage does not look inappropriate or out of place.

“I accept that the down-lighter is prominent due to its colour against the pale frontage. However the style is similar to the lighting on other buildings and is the preferred style in the supplementary guidance on shop fronts and shop signs. I do not find overall it has a significant impact on, or detracts from, the amenity of the area.”

In his report on the application SBC assistant planning officer Euan Calvert wrote: “It is considered that the signage is over-scaled for this traditional building and uses non-traditional materials. The lettering is excessive and appears out of place for the historic character of the Conservation Area.

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“The overall design is considered to detract from the historic character of the Conservation Area. The extent of livery appears cluttered and unnecessary. The sign is not in accordance with the advice contained within the council’s Supplementary Planning Guidance on Shop Fronts and Signage. This is a sensitive location in the centre of the conservation area, where higher standards of design are a necessity.”

Mr Calvert pointed out that the sign was an alloy fascia panel with 3D lettering and measured seven meters in length by 0.8 meters in height, labelling it “excessive and badly arranged” and that the three-metre illumination strip was “not an appropriate approach to signage lighting in the conservation area”.

Grounds for appeal put forward by Stuart Patterson, agent for Mr Khoury, included the following: “The applicant saw an opportunity to expand his own catering business, having successfully taken ownership of The Night Safe Bistro in Hawick before opening his first Salt ‘N’ Fire takeaway, also in Hawick. The new shop was opened on February 3 this year, and has had solid trading since its inception.

“While it is not an excuse that the owner was unaware of the planning requirements for this work, the new sign was erected in good faith, based on the overall size of the existing signage and those on surrounding properties in Kelso town centre.”

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